A number of trends could combine to lower U.S. smoking rates from the current 18 percent, to 10 percent or less, health officials predict. Cigarette taxes, bans on smoking in public places and regulations on cigarette advertising could influence people’s perceptions of smoking, according to the Associated Press.
Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) unveiled its latest anti-smoking campaign, which features real people talking about smoking in tough and often frightening terms. A previous anti-tobacco ad campaign featuring graphic images helped 100,000 people quit smoking, the CDC said in September.
Last week, CVS, the nation’s second largest pharmacy chain, announced it will stop selling tobacco products in its more than 7,600 stores by October 1.
A report released last month by Acting U.S. Surgeon General Boris Lushniak called for increased tobacco control measures. He told the AP, “I can’t accept that we’re just allowing these numbers to trickle down. We believe we have the public health tools to get us to the zero level.”
Some public health advocates say smoking rates will not decline to 10 percent or lower unless the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) takes bolder steps to regulate smoking, the AP notes. The FDA was given authority to regulate tobacco products under a 2009 federal law, but so far it has not prohibited menthol flavoring in cigarettes, or required cigarette makers to reduce the amount of additive nicotine in cigarettes.
Some health advocates say electronic cigarettes could help reduce smoking rates, by getting people to switch from regular cigarettes. Others are concerned the devices could make smoking more appealing. “It could go in either direction,” said John Seffrin, the American Cancer Society’s Chief Executive Officer.