Health officials report that the number of smokers in the U.S. have dipped by almost 20 percent in the last decade, as well as decreased by a full percentage point last year.

Although it did not pinpoint the exact reason why, new research from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that the rate of American adult smokers declined from 20.9 percent in 2005 to 16.8 percent last year.

The report also stated that cigarette smoking was dramatically lower in 2014 than the previous year, which recorded 17.8 percent.

Anti-smoking drives, increased insurance coverage to quit the habit, and tougher smoking laws are all recognized for making smoking more difficult to do at present.

However, there’s cause for alarm: individuals on Medicaid and the uninsured smoked at rates that were much higher – over double the numbers – than those with Medicare or private insurance.

According to data provided by a 2014 annual survey, 29.1 percent of those on Medicaid and 27.9 percent of the uninsured currently smoke, while in contrast only 12.5 percent of those on Medicare and 12.9 percent with private health insurance do.

As far as gender and age are concerned: men or 18.8 percent smoke more than women or 14.8 percent, while people above 65 years old are the least probably to – or a mere 8.5 percent.

E-cigarettes, added the report, are currently backed by little evidence that they are helping smokers quit.

Dr. Tom Frieden, director of CDC, warned that smoking – which hit a 50-year low in 2014 – leads to 500,000 fatalities in the U.S. each year, costing over $300 billion. "This report shows real progress helping American smokers quit and that more progress is possible," he said.

For Matthew Myers, who heads the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, solutions in the battle against tobacco must be implemented across the country. He cited efforts such as higher tobacco tax, stiffer laws, and well-funded cessation programs and treatments.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development recently proposed banning smoking in buildings manned by 31,000 agencies of American public housing. The rule is expected to protect over 1 million people, including about 760,000 kids often exposed to second-hand smoke.

The American Lung Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics lauded the proposal, pointing out that 40 percent of children residing in housing with federal subsidy are exposed to second-hand smoke in their own homes.

Photo: Steve Garner | Flickr

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