While e-cigarettes may be growing in popularity, tobacco’s usage in households and society continues to decline in the U.S. In fact, more than 80 percent of homes in the country are now smoking-free, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Much like in offices, restaurants and other public places, large numbers of private homes have banned tobacco smoking, even in homes that contain a resident smoker.
Twenty years ago, approximately 43 percent of American homes were smoke free. The number of households who have banned smoking inside has doubled since then, with 90 percent of homes without a smoker requiring any guests who want to light up to step out. Even homes occupied by a smoker keep smoking out of doors. (Half of all homes with an adult smoker adhere to smoke-free rules too.)
One explanation for the increased number of smoke-free homes is the diminishing population of Americans who smoke. In 2012, only 18 percent of the U.S. population was smokers. That is a considerable decline from the 42 percent who smoked in 1965, according to the CDC.
Noting that it demonstrates a shift in social norms, Brian King, who served as lead author for the new CDC study, pointed out it is no longer considered to be socially acceptable behavior to smoke around non-smokers. The CDC study demonstrates the increased awareness of the hazards created by exposure to second hand smoke. Still, King said, additional progress is necessary, particularly in those homes where smokers live that have not banned internal smoking. Secondhand smoke from cigarettes kills approximately 41,000 non-smokers each year. Consequently, not smoking in homes helps protect any children and non-smokers.
While the CDC stats address tobacco use, they do not include any figures for marijuana use. They also do not reflect use of e-cigarettes.
Among states, Utah has the highest percentage of smoke-free homes with 93.6 percent, per the CDC. Kentucky and West Virginia had the lowest percentages of smoke-free homes at 69.4 percent.
Other Areas that Demonstrate Smoking Decline
There are still 43 million smokers in the country, although more than half acknowledge they want to quit. There have been several other initiatives of late that demonstrate the decline of smoking today as a newer cultural norm:
- CVS stores across the country stopped selling cigarettes and cigars and added smoking cessation kits as point of purchase items near cash registers. The chain, which is the nation’s second-largest drug store chain, also changed its name at their more than 7,000 stores to CVS Health. When the store announced the change, they estimated that stopping the sale of tobacco products would cut sales by $2 billion.
- An anti-smoking ad debuted during this week’s MTV Video Music Awards show that showed non-glamorous images of celebrities who smoke. Rihanna, Orlando Bloom, Lady Gaga and others were shown in ways to depict that smoking is not cool.
- The portrayal of smokers in movies and television has declined considerably, which also reflects societal changes. In 1990, the 25 biggest-grossing films averaged 3.5 smoking scenes each. By 2007, that number dropped to .23 scenes. Nowadays, smoking on screen is usually used to depict the time period (like in Mad Men or Masters of Sex) or nervous edginess (Ray Donovan).
The message that tobacco smoking is bad has been ingrained (and printed on packages) for decades. While the news is good that more homes are now free of smoking and there are cultural changes that are being made, it remains doubtful that tobacco smoking can be eliminated completely.