With cigarette taxes incrementally crawling upward, indoor smoking bans gaining traction across the country, and the dangers of smoking regularly hammered home by public health officials and news outlets, it would seem that the U.S. is winning the war against cigarettes. But, according to the results of a new survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control, anti-smoking efforts may have hit a wall: for the first time in 15 years, cigarette smoking increased in 2008.
According to estimates from 2007, 19.8% of U.S. adults smoked; last year, that figure was up to 20.6%, or roughly the same as levels from 2004 to 2006. Though smoking rates have steadily declined since 1960, these latest figures suggest that the dramatic dip of a full percentage point in 2007 may reflect simple statistical fluctuations more than an actual decline in smoking, much to the disappointment of public health officials.
The results of the survey, which included 22,000 in-person interviews, indicate that America’s affection for tobacco may not be waning as quickly as anti-smoking advocates had hoped. And, according to research published late last month in the Archives of Internal Medicine, it may not be just be admitted smokers that officials need to nudge toward kicking the habit. As the Los Angeles Times reported, while daily smoking was steadily diminishing between 1996 and 2001, non-daily smoking—by people who bum cigarettes off friends on a night out, but rarely buy packs themselves, for example—was stealthily sneaking upward in most U.S. states.