Health, Wellness, and Society’s Updates

Amid Smoking Decline, Look Who's Still Lighting Up

Image courtesy of Paolo Neo / Wikimedia Commons | Article Link | by Yuki Noguchi

Robin Koval is making a career of her changed tobacco habit.

"I'm a child of a smoker — my father was a heavy smoker," Koval says. "Really typical to the way the story goes, I started smoking when I was 15."

Now she is president and CEO of Legacy, a foundation devoted to preventing tobacco use.

Koval is working in a rapidly changing landscape. Earlier this month, Reynolds American announced plans to buy its rival Lorillard for $27.4 billion. This move alters the U.S. tobacco market and comes as the number of smokers in the U.S. continues to decline.

In the 1960s, more than 40 percent of Americans smoked. Now, that's down to 18 percent. Not only are fewer people smoking, heavy smokers are consuming fewer cigarettes.

"We are winning the war," Koval says. "I guess from my perspective, we'd rather win the war faster."

She says the overall numbers mask a huge cultural variation.

"I live in Washington, D.C.; we have a low smoking rate here. But if you go to a place like West Virginia, which has the highest smoking rate in the country, the behavior feels completely normalized," Koval says.