Declines in Cigarette Use by Adults Show Impact of Evidence-Based Tobacco Control Policies  

One in Five Americans Are Still Using Tobacco Products

May 4, 2023

Washington, D.C.– May 4, 2023 – Cigarette smoking declined from 12.5% in 2020 to 11.5% in 2021, but one in five, or 46 million, U.S. adults continues to use tobacco products in 2021 according to new data released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Of those 46 million Americans, 77.5%, or 35.6 million are using combustible tobacco products, like cigarettes and cigars, and 18.1% or 8.3 million are using two or more products, with cigarettes and e-cigarettes are the most frequently used combination. Combustible tobacco rates were highest for non-Hispanic Black or African American adults, those living in rural areas, with a GED or no high school diploma, with lower incomes, and adults identifying as lesbian, bisexual or gay. 

The CDC survey also found use of e-cigarettes rose to 4.5%, up from 3.7% in 2020, with young adults aged 18-24 being the largest users of e-cigarettes. Researchers at the American Cancer Society recently released a journal article concluding that almost three-quarters of a million more adults in the U.S, ages 18-29 years, used e-cigarettes between 2019-2021 and the year-on-year increase was primarily among adults who never smoked cigarettes. 

The following is a statement from Lisa Lacasse, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN): 

“It is encouraging to see adult smoking rates declining, proof positive that evidence-based policies aimed at reducing tobacco initiation and increasing tobacco cessation are working. However, while we are optimistic that this trend will continue, we cannot become complacent. With 46 million adults still using a harmful product, this is not time to declare victory. Tobacco continues to be the number one cause of cancer, leading to 480,000 deaths each and every year.  

“These data also highlight that serious disparities are still present and just how important it is for the federal government, along with state and local lawmakers, to quickly enact evidence-based strategies to counter Big Tobacco’s aggressive marketing tactics and stop the intentional targeting of the Black and LGBTQ+ communities, youth and others.  ACS CAN will continue to urge the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to use its full authority over all tobacco products, including finalizing rules to prohibit menthol in cigarettes and all flavors in all cigars and to enforce the premarket review requirements on e-cigarettes. 

“Additionally, ACS CAN is calling on state and local lawmakers to enact proven, evidence-based policies, including significant tobacco tax increases, comprehensive, state-side smoke-free laws, and adequate funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs.  

“We know what we need to do to swiftly bring down the number of tobacco users. Now, we just need our lawmakers to act.” 

Media Contacts

Alissa Crispino
SVP, Advocacy Communications and Policy
Trista Hargrove
Director, Media Advocacy