The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest National Health Interview Survey has just revealed some promising news for the American public: The prevalence of smoking is the lowest it has ever been. The report states that compared to 1965 where the rate of smokers in the United States was 42 percent, the current number of smokers has dropped to just over 15 percent of adults.

In 1997, the CDC found that 24.7 percent of Americans were smokers, which dropped in 2013 to 17.8 percent. Now the total number is 15.2 percent, showing that the United States is experiencing a steady decline of cigarette smokers that will hopefully continue. The CDC notes, that as of 2013, the highest rates of smoking were reported among men at 20.5 percent as opposed to 15.3 percent in women, while American Indians and Alaskan Natives, along with African-Americans represented the highest number of smokers in racial categories, amounting to 26.1 percent and 18.3 percent respectively.

With this recent decline in cigarette smokers, many are looking to the safety and efficacy of using e-cigarettes as a possible way of continuing to help smokers quit. Within their NHIS, the CDC also estimates that e-cigarettes could potentially be 95 percent less harmful than tobacco-based cigarettes. But despite this number, and growing information suggesting that e-cigarettes are a better alternative when compared to cigarettes, almost half the population, or 44.8 percent of Americans are unaware that e-cigarettes are not as bad as their more lethal counterparts.

According to Nature World Report, health groups are using this information to give the Food and Drug Administration reason to officially finalize regulations pertaining to e-cigarettes and cigars. They cite the report which says that though e-cigarettes do contain nicotine, they do not contain the tar that is mostly linked with cancer and death for smokers.

But e-cigarettes' addition of nicotine is yet another beast those in favor of the alternative must come up against. A study from July published in the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology found that though e-cigarettes are less dangerous than regular cigarettes, possessing nicotine could make them just as addictive. When testing the chemicals that are vaporized when someone breathes in e-cigarette smoke, researchers found that the type of nicotine being inhaled is largely the more addictive form found in cigarettes. And while chemical components of other vaporized materials in e-cigarettes are still questionable, switching out the cancer-sticks for the ECIG could mean transferring one bad habit to another.

For those who believe that the increase in e-cigarettes are just a gateway to tobacco cigarettes, Peter Hajek, professor of clinical psychology at the University of London says the CDC report did not conclude this. “The new study does not show that vaping leads to smoking,” he told Nature World Report.

But e-cigarettes aside, the report definitely suggests we are doing something right in way of America’s current anti-smoking campaigns. Thomas Carr, the director of national policy for the American Lung Association says that to continue on with this decline, we must “do more of the same.” And if the FDA begins to regulate other smoking products, like cigars, hookahs, and e-cigarettes, Carr says that we may be able to reduce this rate even further.

For those who are looking for help quitting, e-cigarettes still remain a topic of debate. That being said, the CDC report does show hope that we can reach a smoke-free United States, but whether this will be with the aid of alternatives remains to be seen.

Source: El-Hellani A, El-Hage R, Baalbaki R, et al. Free-Base and Protonated Nicotine in Electronic Cigarette Liquids and Aerosols. Chemical Research in Toxicology. 2015.