Skip to main content

Reducing Tobacco Use in the United States

How is the United States doing in reducing the use of tobacco?

In the April 2021 issue of the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH), Annenberg Public Policy Center Research Director Daniel Romer compares strategies employed in the United States with new findings from Brazil that are also reported in this issue of the AJPH.

The research from Brazil shows that the country has been among the most successful in the Americas in reducing cigarette smoking and tobacco use in general.

In an editorial, Romer says that the success in Brazil stands in contrast to the United States, which will fail to meet the World Health Organization’s goal of a 30% reduction in tobacco use worldwide by 2025, using 2010 as the baseline. Brazil has implemented all of the WHO’s strategies for achieving this goal, including raising taxes on cigarettes, restricting smoking in public places, limiting advertising and promotion of tobacco products, and placing graphic warnings on cigarette packs.

According to the WHO, Brazil’s adult prevalence of cigarette use is 11.8%, compared with 16.3% in the United States. In addition, Romer points out, Brazil is on track to exceed the WHO’s goal, with an anticipated decrease of 40% in overall tobacco use by 2025, compared with an anticipated 20% decrease in the United States.

The smoking dilemma in the U.S.

Despite Brazil’s efforts so far, progress has slowed. Although having cut down on cigarette use, many Brazilian smokers have not quit. A similar pattern has occurred in the United States, and this suggests that a new stage of tobacco control messaging is needed to counter the belief that simply reducing the use of cigarettes will substantially reduce the risk to health.

Romer writes that the United States also faces dilemmas in that its policies have focused on replacing cigarette use with less harmful tobacco products. But this strategy has backfired, as millions of adolescents, for example, have turned to electronic cigarettes in the belief that they are less harmful than regular cigarettes. As a result, achieving the goal of less use of tobacco products will remain a challenge in the United States for the foreseeable future.

Read the editorial “Brazil’s Efforts to Reduce Cigarette Use Illustrate Both the Potential Successes and Challenges of This Goal” in the American Journal of Public Health.