Surprising Trend: Americans Over 65 Buck the Trend of Quitting Smoking

New Data Reveals Smoking Among Older Adults is on the Rise

New research indicates that contrary to trendy claims, it isn’t young adults that are making smoking cool again. On the contrary, there has been a significant decrease in the prevalence of smoking habits across the ages, except for the group of adults aged 65 and older. According to Rafael Meza, an oncologist at the BC Cancer Research Institute, public health campaigns targeting the dangers of smoking have generally missed the mark when it comes to older adults. Meza points out that the pattern of smoking in the U.S. has generational roots.

Meza has published a new study in JAMA Health Forum, analysis of the data shows that smoking is most prevalent in the age bracket of 40 through 64. However, older adults, aged 65 and above, are increasingly picking up the habit. The analysis reveals that older adults saw a noticeable increase in the prevalence of smoking, echoing trends in tobacco use from the 60s and 70s when cigarettes were commonly used without widespread public health education on risks.

A major factor contributing to these generational divides is the accessibility of smoking cessation programs and products. Meza highlights that access to smoking cessation tools is not consistent across all social tiers, as only two nicotine-free smoking cessation therapies are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, available exclusively by prescription. Additionally, certain demographic groups have historically been targeted by tobacco companies through advertising and influencing factors which may have contributed to the increase in smoking behavior among older adults.

In light of this new research, studies suggest there may be a link between increased smoking among older adults and loneliness. Research by Jie Yang indicates that loneliness among older adults is associated with smoking and the number of cigarettes smoked, suggesting a correlation between mental and social isolation and increased smoking habits.

A positive development comes from the Biden Administration, which has announced plans for new smoking cessation efforts addressing equitable opportunities to quit smoking, with a focus on addressing lung and smoking-related cancers. The decline in smoking among adolescents is seen as a win and a sign of hope for future efforts, according to Meza, who remains optimistic that existing interventions can be effective for older adults as well.

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