Fewer U.S. adults smoke cigarettes today than ever before in almost two decades, according to statistics released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Only 14.9% of U.S. adults currently smoke, the lowest rate reported since the National Health Interview Survey began in 1997. The number is even lower than the 16.8% statistic released last week for smoking prevalence in 2014.
The dip is a positive sign, considering an estimated 480,000 Americans die per year from smoking and almost another 42,000 die from secondhand smoking.
There was a decline in smoking from 1997 to 2004, at which point the rate then held steady. In 2009, when tobacco taxes were raised, smoking began declining further.
According to the survey, more men than women smoke. As well, younger people ages 18-44 (16.3%) and 45-64 (16.7%) smoke than those who are 65 and older (8.5%).
Those who have had less education are more likely to smoke. Individuals who have only graduated high school are more than twice as likely (21.7%) to smoke than those with undergraduate degrees (7.9%).
Among the ethnic groups studied, Asian-Americans are least likely to be smokers (9.5%) while American Indian and Alaska Natives are the most likely (29.2%).
The highest percentage of smokers live in the Midwest (20.7%) and the lowest percentage live in the West (13.1%). Over the past decade, the Midwest also had the lowest decline in smoking rate (14.4%) among all U.S. regions, all of which dropped by at least 20%.
According to the CDC report, smoking causes an estimated $300 billion annually in medical costs lost productivity.