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Cigarette Smoking Among Adults—United States, 2002

May 28, 2004 / Vol. 53 / No. 20


MMWR Highlights

  • In 2002, 45.8 million adults (22.5%) in the United States were current smokers—25.2% of men and 20% of women.
  • Among racial and ethnic groups, smoking prevalence was highest among American Indians/Alaska Natives (40.8%) and lowest among Hispanics (16.7%) and Asians (13.3%).
  • Among income groups, smoking prevalence was higher among adults living below the poverty level (32.9%) than those at or above the poverty level (22.2%).
  • Smoking prevalence was highest among those aged 18–24 (28.5%) and 25–44 (25.7%) and lowest among those aged 65 and older (9.3%).
  • Among current adult smokers, 37.5 million (81.8%) smoked every day, and 8.3 million (18.2%) smoked some days.
  • An estimated 46 million adults were former smokers in 2002, representing 50.1% of those who had ever smoked. For the first time, more adults have quit than are still smoking.
  • An estimated 15.4 million (41.2%) adult smokers had stopped smoking for at least 1 day during the preceding 12 months because they were trying to quit.
  • By education level, adults who had earned a General Educational Development (GED) diploma (42.3%) and those with a grade 9–11 education (34.1%) had the highest prevalence of smoking; those with master’s, professional, and doctoral degrees had the lowest prevalence (7.2%).
  • Disparities in smoking prevalence by socioeconomic status have not narrowed and may have widened during 1983-2002, highlighting the need for expanded interventions that can better reach persons with low socioeconomic status.
  • From 1983 to 2002, the gap in smoking prevalence between those living below the poverty line and those living at or above it increased from 8.7 percentage points to 10.7 percentage points.
  • The gap between these two poverty status groups in percent of ever smokers who have quit increased from 18.7 percentage points in 1983 to 20 percentage points in 2002.
  • The gap in smoking prevalence between adults who had graduated from college and those with less than a high school education increased from 14 percentage points in 1983 to 18.2 percentage points in 2002.
  • The percent of ever smokers who had quit during 1983–2002 was highest for those with college degrees and lowest for those with high school diploma or less than high school education. The gap in percent of ever smokers who had quit between adults with a college degree and those with less than a high school education increased from 19 percentage points in 1983 to 25.9 percentage points in 2002.
  • Comprehensive tobacco control programs at local, state, and national levels need to ensure that their prevention and cessation efforts reach persons with inadequate resources and limited access to health care.
 
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