Office on Smoking and Health At A Glance
What We Do
With an FY 2019 budget of $210 million, CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health (OSH) prevents young people from using tobacco, helps people quit using tobacco, reduces secondhand smoke exposure, and identifies and eliminates tobacco-related disparities. To meet these goals, OSH works to:
Study what works
best to prevent
tobacco use and
help people quit
Fund and guide
tribes, and nonprofit
to the public
about the dangers
of tobacco use
Why We Do It
Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable disease, disability, and death in the United States. As of 2017, about 34 million US adults smoke cigarettes. Every day, about 2,000 young people under age 18 smoke their first cigarette, and more than 300 become daily cigarette smokers. Over 16 million people live with at least one disease caused by smoking, and 58 million nonsmoking Americans are exposed to secondhand smoke. Smoking-related illness costs society over $300 billion each year, including $170 billion in direct medical costs. Costs could be reduced if we prevent young people from starting to smoke and help people who smoke to quit.
US adults smoke cigarettes.
US middle and high school students use tobacco products.
nonsmoking Americans are exposed to secondhand smoke.
is spent each year to treat smoking-related diseases.
CDC collects, studies, and shares information to assess tobacco use and its effects on health, promote evidence-based approaches, and measure progress toward goals. CDC uses this information to:
- Monitor changes and trends in the use of tobacco products among young people and adults.
- Understand tobacco-related knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors among young people and adults.
- Study the impact of comprehensive tobacco control programs and policies.
- Provide answers to important questions about tobacco use and tobacco control.
Information is shared in many ways—for example, through high-quality reports, easy-to-understand web pages, reports, articles, infographics, and easy-to-use, interactive data applications. The online OSHData tool provides access to the latest tobacco prevention and control data, graphs, and maps, which users can download for more analysis. The online STATE System provides data on state tobacco use prevention and control policies.
Examples of Our Impact
- The National Youth Tobacco Survey is the nation’s premier school-based survey focusing specifically on use, beliefs, and knowledge about tobacco among middle and high school students.
- Surgeon General’s Reports form the basis of the public’s understanding of the health effects of tobacco use, secondhand smoke exposure, and evidence-based tobacco control strategies. Best Practices for Comprehensive Tobacco Control Programs outlines how to develop, implement, and budget for evidence-based tobacco prevention and control programs.
- Global Tobacco Surveillance System Data are available from four tobacco surveys conducted around the world. CDC’s global tobacco work is supported by the CDC Foundation through donations from the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
CDC’s National Tobacco Control Program is the only nationwide initiative that supports all 50 states, the District of Columbia, 8 US territories, and 12 tribal organizations for comprehensive tobacco control efforts and quitlines. In FY 2018, CDC provided $72 million to support strong tobacco control programs that reduce tobacco-related diseases and deaths by:
- Preventing young people from starting to smoke.
- Promoting quitting among adults and young people.
- Reducing exposure to secondhand smoke.
- Identifying and eliminating tobacco-related disparities.
States that have made larger investments in comprehensive tobacco control programs have seen larger and faster declines in cigarette smoking among adults and young people. For every $1 spent on comprehensive tobacco control programs, states get a $55 return on investment, mostly in averted health care costs to treat smoking-related illness.
Examples of Our Impact
- Current cigarette smoking among US adults declined from 20.9% (about 1 in every 5 adults) in 2005 to 14.0% (nearly 1 in every 7 adults) in 2017.
- Twenty-seven states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands have comprehensive smokefree laws that prohibit smoking in worksites, restaurants, and bars. Currently, almost 60% of the US population is protected by a comprehensive state or local smokefree law.
For every American who dies because of smoking, at least 30 are living with a serious smoking-related illness. Hard-hitting media campaigns are a proven way to raise awareness about the dangers of smoking and to motivate people to quit.
CDC’s Tips From Former Smokers® (Tips®) campaign, the first federally funded tobacco education campaign, focuses on motivating US adults who smoke to try to quit. Tips features real people— not actors—who are living with serious health conditions caused by smoking and secondhand smoke exposure.
Tips connects people who smoke with resources to help them quit, including 1-800-QUIT-NOW, which directs people to free services from their state quitlines. Through CDC support, state quitlines are able to handle the immediate and sustained increases in calls they receive during the Tips campaign.
Examples of Our Impact
- During 2012–2015, the Tips campaign prompted millions of Americans to try to quit smoking cigarettes and at least half a million to quit for good.
- In the first year of the campaign alone, an estimated 6 million nonsmokers talked with friends and family about the dangers of smoking.
- An economic analysis of the Tips campaign found that, for every $2,000 that OSH spends on the Tips ads, one death is prevented.
CDC helps people stop using tobacco through 1-800-QUIT-NOW, a toll-free telephone line that routes callers to their state quitlines. Callers have access to free counseling and, in many states, free smoking cessation medications when eligible.
CDC also promotes the national Spanish Language Quitline and the national Asian Language Quitline, which route callers to free services.
CDC works with health insurers, health care providers and practices, and employers to improve support for tobacco users who want to quit. CDC’s activities include:
- Promoting coverage of proven tobacco cessation treatments and the removal of barriers to these treatments.
- Promoting health system changes that ensure that providers ask patients if they use tobacco, advise them to quit, and help them quit by providing cessation counseling and medications.
- Encouraging employers to provide workers and their families with barrier-free coverage of proven cessation treatments and to have tobacco-free workplace policies.
- Educating people who smoke on the benefits of using proven cessation treatments when trying to quit.
Examples of Our Impact
- In 2017, more than 282,000 calls to 1-800-QUIT-NOW were attributable to the Tips campaign that ran for 29 weeks.
- The Minnesota and South Carolina tobacco control programs worked to remove co-pays for cessation treatments for Medicaid enrollees.
- Print and digital materials were developed in collaboration with the CDC Foundation to highlight how employers can help improve their employees’ health—and their bottom lines—by reducing tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure in their workplaces and workforces.
Despite the good news that cigarette smoking is decreasing among young people, 2.1 million middle and high school students used electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) in 2017. This is a concern because any tobacco use among young people— whether smoked, smokeless, or electronic—is unsafe. Nicotine is addictive and can harm the developing brain.
In addition to monitoring tobacco use among young people, CDC also helps parents, educators, health care providers, and other youth influencers understand and talk to young people about the dangers of tobacco products. CDC’s activities include:
- Developing easy-to-understand materials using the best available science.
- Leveraging social media platforms to create and deliver information where young people and youth influencers seek information.
Examples of Our Impact
- In 2017, CDC partnered with YouTube stars Rhett and Link to highlight the risks of nicotine on brain development, as described in E-cigarette Use Among Youth and Youth Adults: A Report of the Surgeon General. The video reached nearly 2 million viewers.
- In 2018, CDC released back-to-school educational materials to help parents and teachers recognize new types of e-cigarettes, understand their risks, and take actions to protect kids from these risks.
See the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion infographic to find out more about the center’s work to prevent chronic diseases.
Note: Tobacco in this document refers specifically to the use of manufactured, commercial tobacco products and not the sacred and traditional use of tobacco by American Indians and other groups.