Beyond the Headlines of New CDC Report: Why Puffs Aren’t Stuffed

Beyond the Headlines of New CDC Report: Why Puffs Aren’t Stuffed

“Puffs stuffed! U.S. smoking rates lowest in over half a century,” reported New York Daily News this month.

Headlines like this show a snapshot of the new 2017 numbers released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But they don’t tell the whole story.

The benefits of smoking cessation programs remain real and tangible for employers and health plans.

Here are the facts you need to know.

    1.   34 million Americans still smoke

A November 2018 CDC report showed the overall U.S. smoking rate hit a new low. In 2017, 14% of U.S. adults reported smoking cigarettes “every day” or “some days”—down from 15.5% in 2016. This news is great; however, 14% of Americans is still 34 million smokers.

And in certain groups, there are much higher rates of use.

In fact, those who puff are largely determined by income, education, health insurance coverage, occupation, and geography, among other factors.

34 million U.S. smokers still use tobacco and need the benefits of smoking cessation


    2.   Lower income = higher rates of smoking

Those with an annual household income less than $35,000 have the highest percentage of smokers.

Smoking rates by annual household income


    3.   Education affects smoking rates

Almost 40% of individuals with a GED smoke.

Smoking rates by education level


    4.   Medicaid members and the uninsured smoke more

About 1 in 4 of those on Medicaid and those who are uninsured smoke.

Smoking rates by health insurance coverage


    5.   Certain industries have more smokers

Tobacco use varies by industry and occupation. Those in construction and hospitality have some of the highest rates of smoking.

Smoking rates by industry


    6.   Location matters for tobacco use

Employers and health plans operating in the Midwest and South have higher smoking rates among employees and members.


Smoking rates by regions

In areas of these 12 states specifically, tobacco use can rise up to 40% and generate alarming costs that make effective tobacco cessation programs a must-have.


States with highest smoking rates


    7.   The benefits of smoking cessation still make bottom line sense

With 34 million U.S. smokers, employers and health plans still have reasons to invest in smoking cessation.

In lost productivity alone, each employee’s smoke breaks cost an employer an estimated $3,077 annually. Plus, smokers take an average of 2.6 more sick days per year than nonsmokers. In a tight labor market like today, numbers like this matter more even more, as employers need to maximize their existing workforce.

For health plans, the impact of smoking is equally distressing. For example, Medicaid smokers cost the state of Indiana $540 million a year. On average, Indiana Medicaid members who smoke have monthly healthcare expenses that are 51% higher than those who do not smoke. Because Medicaid members tend to have higher rates of smoking, other Medicaid health plans are likely to experience similar extra costs.


    8.   A digital cessation program boosts the reach of quit-smoking tools

Human-supported digital programs that combine supportive accountability with flexible and accessible tools can give more of today’s smokers the resources they need to quit for good.

This includes support from tobacco treatment specialists via live chat and online communities of current and former smokers. Both are strong, evidence-based modalities that can help smokers build the confidence and skills critical for a successful quit.

Smokers already go online to find digital resources. More than 12 million U.S. adults—a third of all smokers—turn to the Internet to find information about quitting, and for programs that can help.

Through the EX Program, experienced coaches, compassionate peers, clinical experts and digital tools are accessible in ways that match individual preferences.

Learn how you can provide more personalized digital support to help today’s tobacco users quit and stay quit.

Jessie Saul, Ph.D.
Jessie Saul, Ph.D.

Client Success Director

Dr. Jessie Saul brings 16 years of experience in program evaluation and strategic planning with tobacco cessation. She applies this deep understanding to help clients improve program performance and reduce tobacco use among populations. She earned her Ph.D. in Science and Technology Studies from Cornell University.

Human Resources Today