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The Evolution of Cigarettes in One Big Puff [Infographic] the past century, significant social and political events have contributed to the evolution of cigarette usage rates in the U.S. The percentage of U.S. adults who smoked gradually decreased over the years. In the 1940s and 50s, the rate was at 43% and 44%, respectively. By 2010, that rate went down to 18%. Today, the rate shows the lowest prevalence of adult smoking since the CDC started keeping track of these records. What’s more is that the rate is continuing to drop.Tobacco has been a part of American culture since before the revolutionary war. By the time WWI rolled around, tobacco was considered indespensible as part of the daily ration that the troops received. General Pershing famously said, “You ask me what we need to win this war? I answer tobacco as much as bullets.” During the 20s, American tobacco companies sponsored extensive advertising campaigns to promote cigarettes to college students by running ads in campus newspapers. They also carried out on-campus promotions, sponsored athletic events and featured ads in game programs. In 1929, the American Tobacco Company pulled off the most successful PR stunt in American history by convincing women that cigarettes were “torches of freedom” in the spirit of the suffrage movement. This led to an unprecedented surge in women smokers. In  1930, medical journals started accepting tobacco advertising up until 1950. In 1941, Cigarettes became a part of U.S. soldier’s rations once again. 1950 was finally when studies starting getting published about the link between tobacco use and disease. In 1963, the Cigarette Advertising Code led to the cigarette industry voluntarily withdrawing campus newspaper advertising. On-campus cigarette vending machines were replaced with health education programs, and the NCAA started severing athletic connections to the tobacco industry as well. 1965 was when the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act came into place, requiring the Surgeon General’s warning on cigarette packs. In 1968, Virginia Slims were first introduced. Their advertising alluded to the feminist movement with the slogan, “you’ve come a long way, baby!” A year later, all U.S. states and territories implemented cigarette taxes. 1971 was the year where all broadcast advertising for cigarettes were banned. And in 1975, cigarettes were no longer included in U.S. military rations. The first Great American Smokeout followed shortly after, in 1977, and was held in San Francisco. The event’s purpose was to encourage smokers to quit or to use the day to make a quit plan. In 1982, U.S. cigarette consumption reaches its peak; 624 billion cigarettes are sold this year alone. In 1987, Congress bans smoking on all domestic flights. In 1995, the FDA finally declares nicotine as a drug. In 2000, the U.S. Department of Transportation banning smoking on all international flights originating in the U.S. In 2007, electronic cigarettes first enter the U.S. market. In 2009, the Federal tax rate for cigarettes is increased from $0.39 to $1.01 per pack. The current national smoking rate is at 17%.

Smoking Today

  • The national smoking rate is currently 17%
  • Smoking-related illness costs the healthcare system more than $170 billion per year
  • Cigarette smoking kills more than 480,000 Americans per year

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