Think Quit-smoking Resources Aren’t Needed? Here’s a Reality Check

Think Quit-smoking Resources Aren’t Needed? Here’s a Reality Check

Does anyone smoke anymore? Doesn’t everyone know how deadly it is? People who are still smoking must not want to quit, right? Do companies even need to offer quit-smoking resources?

Depending on where you live or work, these questions may make total sense.

As smoke-free laws and workplace smoking policies have become more common, smoking has been pushed out of sight in many places. Unfortunately, new data from the CDC underscore the fact that even though you may not see it, smoking is still the number one public health problem in the U.S.

According to the latest CDC National Health Interview Survey, more than 50 million U.S. adults still use some form of tobacco—and almost 1 in 5 tobacco users use 2 or more tobacco products. To be clear, there is no safe way to use tobacco. Whether it’s smoked, dipped, chewed, or vaped, using tobacco is harmful and costly.

Let’s take a deeper dive into the CDC data to understand what the numbers mean.

infographic of the latest CDC National Health Interview Survey illustrating the need for quit-smoking resources due to disparities in tobacco use among Americans

Trends with cigarette use
  • Cigarettes are still the most used tobacco product among adults.
  • For the third year in a row, the survey shows that adult smoking has stalled at 14%.
  • Dramatic disparities in smoking rates persist. Those with a GED, uninsured adults and adults with Medicaid, American Indian/Alaska Natives, and LGBTQ adults smoke at significantly higher rates than the rest of the population. The reasons for this are complex, but industry targeting and social, economic, and environmental stressors all play a role.
  • Tobacco use rates are more than double the population average among those with mild (30.4%), moderate (34.2%), or severe (45.3%) anxiety. This comes at a time when depression and anxiety are being called the “toxic side effects” of the COVID pandemic. This isn’t just a concern for individuals—the combination of anxiety and smoking could affect employers as well.
Trends with e-cigarette use
  • 5% of all adults use e-cigarettes, up from 3.2% in 2018.
  • E-cigarette use is highest among adults aged 18 to 24 years (9.3%), with over half (56%) of these young adults reporting they had never smoked cigarettes.

Increases in e-cigarette use are concerning for a number of reasons. Although these are a safer tobacco product compared to cigarettes (which is a pretty low bar), e-cigarettes are not safe. The long-term safety of these products is unknown, and the aerosol from e-cigarettes can contain cancer-causing chemicals and damage lung tissue.

Most e-cigarettes also contain nicotine, which is highly addictive. For young people in particular, exposure to nicotine during the time that their brain is still developing can have long-lasting negative consequences. These include nicotine addiction as well as attention and mood disorders.

There’s often a lot of confusion about e-cigarettes as a way to quit smoking. When they first came on the market, there was great hope that they would help smokers to quit. Unfortunately, that hasn’t turned out to be the case.

Numerous major reports have all concluded there is no evidence that e-cigarettes are an effective quit-smoking method. Also, at the EX Program, we see more and more people who started vaping as a way to quit smoking but find themselves even more addicted to e-cigarettes than they ever felt with smoking.

Next step: Finding the right quit-tobacco resource for your population

The good news is that the majority of tobacco users want to quit. Around 70%, in fact. This is true year after year in the CDC survey. The key is getting proven, engaging quitting programs into the hands of every single tobacco user.

About half of all people who smoke try to quit each year. Unfortunately, the majority try to “white knuckle” their way through breaking this tenacious addiction without any support. Not surprisingly, only a fraction of people who try to quit without any support are successful.

Providing support is especially critical now.

With increased anxiety, disrupted routines, and social isolation from COVID-19, many people are struggling with addiction. On top of that, the stresses of economic uncertainty and unemployment across the country have translated into more smoking.

Tobacco cessation treatment is one of the most cost-effective investments you can make. The 2020 Surgeon General Smoking Cessation Report concluded that “smoking cessation interventions… should be implemented as widely as possible throughout the healthcare system and supported more broadly by population-level tobacco control measures.” The report specifically called out employers and health systems, noting the critical role they can play in helping tobacco users succeed.

How digital quit-smoking resources can help

Digital interventions are particularly powerful in addressing the unique needs of tobacco users in today’s environment.

  • Digital access cuts across race, income, geography, and education, reaching those highlighted by the CDC as being at higher risk.
  • Easy access through mobile devices and engaging digital tools keep tobacco users connected to the quitting process.
  • A thriving online community of current and former smokers delivers powerful support and connectedness from people who understand what quitting is all about.

Here’s a great example from EX Community member, Ralph1955: “From the day I signed up here, I was met by friends and professional people who guided me and supported me during down times. The ability to reach out and ask for help was/is amazing and I know that I could not have done it without this group [EX Community].”

The numbers from the CDC might feel daunting. But here at the EX Program, our proven digital approach is making a difference every day in helping hundreds of thousands of people break free from tobacco addiction.

Contact us today to see a demo and learn how the EX Program can change your numbers by inspiring more tobacco-free lives.

Amanda Graham, Ph.D.

Chief Health Officer

Dr. Amanda Graham leads the Innovations Center within Truth Initiative. The Innovations Center is dedicated to designing and building leading digital products for tobacco cessation, including the EX Program. She is internationally recognized as a thought leader in web and mobile quit-smoking interventions and online social networks and has been awarded over $15 million in research funding. She has published over 115 peer-reviewed manuscripts and serves on National Institutes of Health study sections and numerous journal editorial boards. Graham is Professor of Medicine (adjunct) at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science.

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