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CDC Reports Vital Information on Smoking

A new edition of CDC Vital Signs reports that adult smoking rates in the United States declined overall during 2005–2010; however, the amount and direction of change in smoking prevalence has not been consistent year to year.

Photo: Two women talking over coffee.Key findings also indicate that—

  • In 2010, nearly one in five U.S. adults (45.3 million) were current cigarette smokers.
  • During 2005–2010, patterns of consumption shifted toward smokers consuming fewer cigarettes per day.
  • Large disparities in smoking prevalence continue to exist.

Who Smokes?

CDC Vital Signs reveals that among all adults, smoking declined from 20.9% in 2005 to 19.3% in 2010. The percentage of adult daily smokers who smoke 30 or more cigarettes per day also decreased from 13% in 2005 to 8% in 2010, while the percentage of daily smokers who smoke 1 to 9 cigarettes per day increased from 16% to 22%.

However, cigarette smoking among adults remains widespread. About 45.3 million American adults still smoke, and smoking prevalence varies substantially across population subgroups. Smoking rates are higher among—

  • Men
  • People living below the poverty level
  • American Indians and Alaskan Natives
  • People with less education
  • People living in the Midwest and in the South

Photo: Father and son talking.What Does This Mean?

Tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of disease, death, and disability in the United States. Of the 19.3% of American adults who smoke, about half will die prematurely from smoking-related causes. Despite an overall decrease in the prevalence of cigarette smoking during 2005–2010, the Healthy People 2020 goal of achieving an overall adult smoking rate of 12% or less will not be achieved if current trends continue.

Some people who smoke every day are smoking fewer cigarettes. However, even occasional smoking causes harm, and the best option for any smoker is to quit completely.

What Can Be Done?

Reducing tobacco use is a winnable battle. There are effective strategies known to be successful in addressing this public health priority. CDC Vital Signs stresses the importance of more fully implementing these proven strategies to reduce cigarette smoking and encourage cessation.

  • Implement 100% smoke-free laws in workplaces and public places;
  • Increase the price of tobacco products;
  • Use graphic warning labels and hard-hitting mass media campaigns to warn about the dangers of tobacco use;
  • Enforce restrictions on tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorships; and
  • Expand access to affordable, effective cessation treatment.

Sign: This is a smoke-free building.Call to Action

The tobacco-related issue of CDC Vital Signs includes direct calls to action for—

  • Tobacco users to make their homes and vehicles smoke-free and to quit at any age. Those who want help quitting are urged to ask a health care provider for help quitting, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW for assistance, and find a step-by-step quit guide at
  • State and community leaders to fund comprehensive tobacco control programs at CDC-recommended levels; to enact 100% smoke-free indoor air policies; to increase the price of all tobacco products; to implement hard-hitting media campaigns that raise public awareness of the dangers of tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure; and to use the World Health Organization's MPOWER strategies to prevent and reduce tobacco use and make tobacco less accessible, affordable, desirable, and accepted. Those strategies include Monitoring tobacco use and prevention policies; Protecting people from tobacco smoke; Offering help to quit tobacco use; Warning about dangers of tobacco; Enforcing restrictions on tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship; and Raising taxes on tobacco.
  • Parents and nonsmokers to make their homes and vehicles 100% smoke-free, to quit or never start using tobacco, to teach children about the health risks of smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke, and to encourage friends, family, and co-workers to quit.
  • Health care providers to ask their patients if they use tobacco and help tobacco users to quit; refer patients interested in quitting to 1-800-QUIT-NOW,, or other resources; to advise all patients and parents to make their homes and vehicles 100% smoke-free; and to advise everyone to avoid secondhand smoke exposure.
  • Employers to establish 100% smoke-free policies and to provide employees and their dependents with health insurance that covers support for quitting with little or no copayment.
  • Retailers to learn and follow the new Food and Drug Administration restrictions on youth access to tobacco products and tobacco marketing to youth, to closely check photo IDs, and to never sell tobacco to anyone younger than 18 years of age (or 19 in states with a higher minimum age requirement).

Support in Quitting

Tobacco users who want help to quit can call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669;
TTY 1-800-332-8615)
for free coaching, information, and referral to local resources.

Information and resources are also available online at and SmokefreeWomen These include a step-by-step guide to quitting; instant messaging; and publications that can be downloaded, printed, or ordered.

Vital Signs

CDC Vital Signs tracks progress in key areas of public health. Each Vital Signs presents the latest findings on 1 of 12 key diseases, conditions, or risk factors. Because the same health topic is covered the same month each year, progress can be tracked over time.

The Vital Signs program comprises (1) a Vital Signs MMWR the first Tuesday of each month, (2) a Vital Signs fact sheet for consumer audiences, (3) a media release, (4) announcements via social media tools (Twitter, Facebook, etc.), (5) tools to encourage information exchange (widgets, buttons, RSS feed), (6) a dedicated Web site that provides easy access to all Vital Signs materials, and (7) broad dissemination to state and local partners.

More Information

CDC works 24/7 saving lives and protecting people from health threats to have a more secure nation. A US federal agency, CDC helps make the healthy choice the easy choice by putting science and prevention into action. CDC works to help people live longer, healthier and more productive lives.

  • Page last reviewed: September 6, 2011
  • Page last updated: September 6, 2011
  • Content source:
    • Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs
    • Page maintained by: Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs