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Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports (MMWRs)

Cigarette Smoking Among Adults—United States, 1999

October 12, 2001 / Vol. 50 / No. 40

MMWR Highlights

  • Based on the most recent data from the National Health Interview Survey, a pattern of slow decline in U.S. adult smoking prevalence has emerged since 1993. The smoking rate dropped significantly from 25% in 1993 to 23.5% in 1999.
  • Preliminary data from 2000 and the first 3 months of 2001 suggest that the decline is continuing (to prevalence rates of 23.3 and 22.3% respectively) but at a rate too slow to meet the Healthy People 2010 objective of 12%.
  • The recent decline in adult smoking prevalence may be explained primarily as a response to the 49% price increase in cigarettes from December 1997 to December 1999.
  • In 1999, 46.5 million adults in the United States were current smokers —25.7% of men and 21.5% of women.
  • Smoking prevalence was highest among those aged 18–24 (27.9%) and 25–44 (27.3%), and lowest among those aged 65 and over (10.6%).
  • Among racial and ethnic groups, smoking prevalence was highest among American Indians/ Alaska Natives (40.8%) and lowest among Hispanics and Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders (18.1% and 15.1% respectively).
  • Among income groups, smoking prevalence was highest among adults living below poverty (33.1%).
  • In terms of educational attainment, adults who had earned a General Educational Development (GED) diploma had the highest smoking prevalence (44.4%) while those with masters, professional, or doctoral degrees had the lowest prevalence (8.5%).
  • An estimated 45.7 million adults were former smokers in 1999, including 25.8 million men and 19.9 million women. An estimated 15.7 million adult smokers had stopped smoking for at least 1 day during the preceding 12 months because they were trying to quit.
  • The 2000 Surgeon General’s Report, Reducing Tobacco Use, concluded that if the report’s recommendations regarding educational, clinical, regulatory, economic, and comprehensive approaches to tobacco control were fully implemented, adult smoking rates could be cut in half and the Healthy People 2010 objective could be met.
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