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For Immediate Release: September 7, 2010
Contact: CDC Division of Media Relations
(404) 639-3286

Decline in US Adult Smoking Rate Stalled

Half of children still exposed to secondhand smoke

Despite the known dangers of tobacco use, 1 in 5 American adults continues to smoke cigarettes, and 4 in 10 nonsmokers were exposed to cigarette smoke during 2007-2008, according to reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Among children between the ages of 3 and 11 years old, 54 percent were exposed to secondhand smoke. Nearly all (98 percent) children who live with a smoker are exposed and have measureable levels of toxic chemicals from cigarette smoke.

According to the report, the number of adult smokers dropped between 2000 and 2005, but smoking has remained at about 20-21 percent since 2005. In 2009, more men (nearly 24 percent) than women (about 18 percent) smoked and about 31 percent of those living below poverty level smoked. Less than 6 percent of adults with a graduate degree smoke compared to more than 25 percent of adults with no high school diploma. Further, nearly 90 million non-smoking Americans are exposed to secondhand smoke and have measurable levels of toxic chemicals from cigarette smoke. Black non-smokers are one-third more likely than white smokers, and twice as likely as Mexican-American smokers, to have measurable exposure to tobacco.

"Smoking is still the leading preventable cause of death in this country," said CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. "But progress is possible. Strong state laws that protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke, higher cigarette prices, aggressive ad campaigns that show the human impact of smoking and well-funded tobacco control programs decrease the number of adult smokers and save lives."

In 2009, smoking among adults was lowest in Utah, followed by California. California has had a long-running comprehensive tobacco control program. Adult smoking in California declined by about 40 percent during 1998–2006, and as a result lung cancer in California has been declining four times faster than in the rest of the nation. Maine, New York, and Washington have seen 45–60 percent reductions in youth smoking with sustained statewide efforts. If each state supported comprehensive tobacco control programs for 5 years with CDC recommended levels of funding, an estimated 5 million fewer persons in the country would smoke, resulting in prevention of premature tobacco-related deaths.

The federal government is intensifying its efforts to reduce tobacco use in order to achieve the tobacco use targets in Healthy People 2010 and Healthy People 2020. The 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act gives the Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate the manufacturing, marketing, and distribution of tobacco products and has provided new opportunities to reduce tobacco use.

In addition, the Communities Putting Prevention to Work program provides guidance and funding for states and communities to change policies to prevent tobacco use and protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke. The latter is especially important given that more than half of young children are exposed to secondhand smoke. Children whose parents smoke are twice as likely to smoke themselves, but children who grow up in communities with comprehensive smoke-free laws are much less likely to become smokers.

Smoking causes cancers of the lung, mouth, stomach, pancreas, kidney, colon, cervix, bladder and leukemia, as well as heart attacks, stroke, blindness, pneumonia, emphysema and other lung diseases, and many other health problems. Exposure to secondhand smoke causes sudden infant death syndrome and low birth weight, acute respiratory infections, middle ear disease, exacerbated asthma, respiratory symptoms, and decreased lung function in children. It also causes heart disease and lung cancer in nonsmoking adults.

For more information on tobacco control, visit www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns or www.cdc.gov/tobacco. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) or visit www.smokefree.gov for quitting assistance. For state-specific tobacco data, visit CDC's State Tobacco Activities Tracking and Evaluation System at http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/statesystem. Follow us on Twitter @ twitter.com/CDCTobaccoFree.

About Vital Signs

CDC Vital Signs is a new report that will appear on the first Tuesday of the month as part of the CDC journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). Vital Signs is designed to provide the latest data and information on key health indicators – cancer prevention, obesity, tobacco use, alcohol use, access to health care, HIV/AIDS, motor vehicle passenger safety, health care-association infections, cardiovascular health, teen pregnancy, infant mortality, asthma and food safety.

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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

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