Have you heard? 11%. That’s the new rate of smoking in the US, according to new survey data from the National Center for Health Statistics. While the preliminary report also acknowledged the increase in e-cigarette use (up to 5.8%), this reduction in smoking is worth celebrating.
In 1983, when the American Institute for Preventive Medicine (AIPM) was founded (on our tobacco cessation program), the rate was 32%. Three decades later, when I started as a health coach at AIPM, it was 20%. Another ten years on, and we’re at 11%. Single digits are within reach!
While we’re very proud to support this public health effort, make no mistake—this is an individual accomplishment. Millions of individual efforts. If you have quit, you have done the work. You have changed countless habits, stared down your triggers, balanced both positive and negative peer pressure, and committed to change, despite the incredibly addictive nature of nicotine. And while it makes for a nice news story, at the end of the day the rewards are yours too. From saving money and feeling better daily, to better air for your kids and pets and reduced risks for serious illness and chronic conditions—you’ve earned it.
If you’re thinking about quitting, now is a good time. Maybe it doesn’t feel like the “best” time, but perhaps it’s a “good enough” time—every step you take towards cutting back and making smoking a smaller part of your life matters. Take small steps, like leaving your pack behind while you run a short errand. Take one break a day differently—try a short walk, call a friend, or watch a funny video. Try a minute of focusing on your breathing, making your inhales the same length as your exhales. Finding new ways to respond to stressors (that really work for you!) is so important for long-term quitting success. If you’re vaping or using other tobacco products, these tools can help you too.
If you don’t smoke or use tobacco products, you can still be a positive part of someone’s success. Be a person they enjoy spending time with—invite them to do things with you, like going for a walk, making a meal, or going to the movies. Social connection is a foundation of our collective well-being—you’ll both benefit from quality time together. Avoid assumptions and judgments about their habits. Celebrate their successes, especially those small steps taken. Ask how you can be helpful—it might look different than you imagine. At the end of the day, we are all on the same team.