U.S. Smoking Rate Hits New Low at 15%; FDA Warns Against Powdered Caffeine

The U.S. smoking rate has declined to just over 15 percent of adults, the lowest mark on record, according to a new government survey.

That’s down from almost 17 percent in 2014 and nearly 18 percent in 2013. The new rate is in sharp contrast to 1962, when 42 percent of Americans reported they were smokers.

The most recent falloff started in 2010 after a decade of little-to-no progress against smoking, said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The new data comes from the CDC’s 2015 National Health Interview Survey, an annual study that tracks a variety of public health issues. The survey was conducted between January and March 2015

Tough anti-smoking messages on television and online, along with more smoke-free laws, have contributed to the decline, researchers say. Anti-smoking educational campaigns are having a positive impact, they said.

But between 2004 and 2009, the anti-smoking sentiment stalled, and the U.S. smoking rate remained at about 20 percent.

The just-released lower rate is a sign that America’s current anti-smoking strategy works, and that we need to do “more of the same,” said Thomas Carr, director of national policy for the American Lung Association. There are still plenty of challenges remaining, Carr added. For example, there are still 22 states that haven’t passed any limitations on where a person can smoke, he said. However, tough and often graphic TV testimonials by ex-smokers have convinced thousands of long-time smokers to quite, Carr said.

The latest data found that more men smoke than women — 17 percent compared with 13 percent, the CDC said. Race is also a factor, with more African-Americans (18 percent) smoking than whites (17 percent) or Hispanics (10 percent).

Read more on the health hazards of smoking:

— John Fernandez

FDA Warns Against Powdered Caffeine

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued warning letters this week to five distributors of pure powdered caffeine because of the health dangers they can cause. One teaspoon of pure powdered caffeine has the same amount of caffeine as 28 cups of coffee – a potentially lethal dose.

Last year, two teenage boys died as a result of consuming too much of the powder.

The FDA says the pure powdered caffeine products, which are often mixed with other beverages, are “potentially dangerous” and “present a significant or unreasonable risk of illness or injury.” Lethal amounts can be easily consumed because it’s nearly impossible to measure safe amounts of powdered caffeine with common kitchen measuring tools like teaspoons, the agency adds.

While most people who drink caffeinated beverages such as coffee, tea and soda are aware of caffeine’s common side effects like nervousness and tremors, pure powdered caffeine products can cause serious health effects. A toxic dose of the powder can trigger dangerously rapid or irregular heartbeat, seizures and death. Other symptoms of caffeine toxicity include vomiting, diarrhea, stupor and disorientation.

Anyone experiencing these symptoms should stop using caffeine and seek immediate medical care or advice.

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— Tanya Racoobian Walton

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