The survey also found that the percentage of adults who identified as “current smokers” decreased with age. Current smokers were defined by the study as those who “have smoked 100 cigarettes in their lifetime and still currently smoke."
The NHIS - a “household, multistage probability sample survey conducted annually by interviewers of the U.S. Census Bureau for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics”- collected data on 34,525 adults for the 2012 survey.
Survey respondents were first asked: “Have you smoked at least 100 cigarettes in your entire life?” If they answered ‘yes,’ they were then asked: “Do you now smoke cigarettes every day, some days, or not at all?”
The survey found that 20.4 percent of younger people between the ages of 18 and 44 self-identified as currents smokers, the highest proportion among all age groups.
They were also more than three times as likely as people 75 and over to be current smokers. Just 5.7 percent of those 75 and over identified as current smokers.
A total of 9.5 percent of those aged 45-64, and 11.3 percent of those aged 65-74 also said they were smokers.
Data from the 2001-2012 NHIS shows that the overall number of current smokers ages 18-44 has been slowly declining. The number dropped 5.5 percent from 2001-2012.
The 2012 survey also showed that 20.5 percent of young males smoked in 2012, compared to 15.9 percent of their female peers.
While the number of younger smokers is declining overall, the number of male smokers ages 25-34 has actually gone up 0.6 percent from 2001 to 2011. But the number of young women smokers in that demographic decreased by 3.2 percent during the same period.
Nearly 90 percent of adult smokers in the United States began smoking by age 18, according to the Center for Disease Control’s Nov. 15, 2013 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids argues that the amount of younger smokers could be quickly reduced if more states put the funds awarded them from the 1998 Tobacco Settlement towards smoking prevention programs.
According to their recent report, “In Fiscal Year 2014, the states will collect $25 billion in revenue from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend only 1.9 percent of it – $481.2 million – on programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit. This means the states are spending less than two cents of every dollar in tobacco revenue to fight tobacco use.”
The report pointed out that states that implemented such programs were successful in decreasing smoking among teenagers. For example, “Florida, which has a well-funded, sustained tobacco prevention program, reduced its high school smoking rate to just 8.6 percent in 2013, far below the national rate,” the report noted.