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Adult Smoking in the US

September 2011


A person's silhouette

Cigarette1 in 5

Nearly 1 in 5 adults (45.3 million) smokes. Among all adults, smoking declined from 20.9% in 2005 to 19.3% in 2010.


Smokers are smoking less. Among adult daily smokers, the percentage who smoke 30 or more cigarettes per day dropped from 13% in 2005 to 8% in 2010.


Half of adults who continue to smoke will die from smoking-related causes.

Tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the US. Some people who smoke every day are smoking fewer cigarettes; however, even occasional smoking causes harm. The percentage of American adults who smoke decreased from 20.9% in 2005 to 19.3% in 2010. That translates to 3 million fewer smokers than there would have been with no decline. But almost 1 in 5 adults still smoke. Reducing tobacco use is a winnable battle—a public health priority with known, effective actions for success. A combination of smoke-free laws, cigarette price increases, access to proven quitting treatments and services, and hard-hitting media campaigns reduces health care costs and saves lives.



443,000 Americans die of smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke each year.

Millions of people still smoke.

  • For every smoking-related death, another 20 people suffer with a smoking-related disease.
  • In 2010, 19.3% of adults (or 45.3 million) smoked cigarettes, compared with 20.9% of adults in 2005.
  • Smoking costs the US about $96 billion each year in direct medical costs and $97 billion from productivity losses due to premature death.

There is no safe level of smoking.

  • Each cigarette you smoke damages your lungs, your blood vessels, and cells throughout your body.
  • Even occasional smoking is harmful, and the best option for any smoker is to quit completely.
  • The more years you smoke, the more you damage your body. Quitting at any age has benefits.
  • A majority of Americans who have ever smoked have already quit; you can too.

Why is it so hard to quit smoking?

  • Nicotine is a highly addictive drug. Addiction keeps people smoking even when they want to quit.
  • Cigarettes deliver more nicotine more quickly now than ever before.
  • The tobacco industry spends about $9.94 billion each year, or $27 million every day, on cigarette advertising and promotion—72% of these dollars are spent on discounts to offset tobacco taxation and other tobacco control policies.

What's the most effective way to quit smoking?

  • Different ways work for different people. Many smokers have to try multiple times before they're able to quit for good. It is important to keep trying until you succeed; each time you learn something that will help you quit for good.
  • While you're trying to quit, nicotine and non-nicotine containing medications can help lessen the urge to smoke. Talk to your health care provider for help.
  • Individual, group, or telephone counseling can double your likelihood of success. A combination of medication and counseling is more effective than medication or counseling alone.
  • Smokers can receive free resources and assistance to help them quit by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) or visiting

The more states invest in comprehensive tobacco control programs, the greater the reductions in smoking—and the longer they invest, the greater and faster the impact.

  • California's adult smoking rate has dropped nearly 50% and the number of cigarettes smoked per person has decreased by 67% since the state began the nation's longest-running tobacco control program in 1988.
  • California saved $86 billion in health care costs by spending $1.8 billion on tobacco control, a 50:1 return on investment over its first 15 years of funding its tobacco control program.

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Who's At Risk?

US Adult Smoking Statistics

SOURCE: National Health Interview Survey, 2010

Percent of adults who smoke by sex

Graph: Statistics taken from the 2010 National Health Interview Survey showing the percentage of adults who smoke by sex

Percent of adults who smoke by poverty level

Graph: Statistics taken from the 2010 National Health Interview Survey showing the percentage of adults who smoke by poverty level

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Percent of adults who smoke by racial/ethnic group

Graph: Statistics taken from the 2010 National Health Interview Survey showing the percentage of adults who smoke by racial/ethnic group

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Percent of adults who smoke by education level

Graph: Statistics taken from the 2010 National Health Interview Survey showing the percentage of adults who smoke by education level

Education estimates are among individuals ≥ 25 years of age.

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U.S. State Info

Adult Smoking Prevalence by State

U.S. Map: Statistics taken from the 2010 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System showing adult smoking prevalence by state

SOURCE: Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2010

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What Can Be Done

Tobacco users can

  • Quit. The sooner you quit, the sooner your body can begin to heal, and the less likely you are to get sick from tobacco use.
  • Ask a health care provider for help quitting and call 1-800-QUIT-NOW for free assistance.
  • Find a step-by-step quit guide at

State and community leaders can

  • Fund comprehensive tobacco control programs at CDC-recommended levels.
  • Enact 100% smoke-free indoor air policies that include workplaces, restaurants, and bars.
  • Increase the price of all tobacco products.
  • Implement hard-hitting media campaigns that raise public awareness of the dangers of tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure.
  • Use the World Health Organization's (WHO's)
    MPOWER strategies to prevent and reduce tobacco use and to make tobacco products less accessible, affordable, attractive, and accepted.
    M=Monitor tobacco use and prevention policies
    P=Protect people from tobacco smoke
    O=Offer help to quit
    W=Warn about the dangers of tobacco use
    E=Enforce restrictions on tobacco advertising
    R= Raise taxes on tobacco

Parents and nonsmokers can

  • Make your home and vehicles smoke-free.
  • Not start, if you aren't already using tobacco.
  • Quit if you smoke; children of parents who smoke are twice as likely to become smokers.
  • Teach children about the health risks of smoking and secondhand smoke.
  • Encourage friends, family, and coworkers to quit.

Health care providers can

  • Ask their patients if they use tobacco; if they do, help them quit.
  • Refer patients interested in quitting to 1-800-QUIT-NOW,, or other resources.
  • Advise all patients to make their homes and vehicles 100% smoke-free.
  • Advise nonsmokers to avoid secondhand smoke exposure.

Employers can

  • Establish a policy banning the use of any tobacco product indoors or outdoors on company property by anyone at any time.
  • Provide all employees and their dependents with health insurance that covers support for quitting with little or no co-payment.

Retailers can

  • Learn the new Food and Drug Administration (FDA) restrictions on youth access to tobacco products and tobacco marketing to youth, and closely follow them.
  • Never sell any tobacco product to customers younger than 18 years of age (or 19 in states with a higher minimum age requirement).
  • Check the photo ID of any customer trying to buy tobacco products who appears to be 26 years of age or younger.

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Science Behind the Issue

  • Page last reviewed: September 6, 2011
  • Page last updated: September 6, 2011
  • Content source: