Office on Smoking and Health At A Glance

group of people

CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health (OSH) is the lead federal agency for comprehensive tobacco prevention and control. OSH saves lives and saves money by preventing and reducing tobacco use—the leading cause of preventable disease, disability, and death in the United States.

What We Do

With an FY 2020 budget of $230 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:

hand holding magnifying glass
Measure how
tobacco use
affects populations.
professionals with books
Study what works
best  to prevent
tobacco use and
help people quit
tobacco use.
US map
Fund and guide
states, territories,
tribes, and nonprofit
organizations to
use evidence-based
strategies.
news on monitor and social media
Provide information
to the public
about the dangers
of tobacco use
and secondhand
smoke exposure.

Why We Do It

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable disease, disability, and death in the United States. As of 2018, about 34 million US adults smoke cigarettes. Every day, about 1,600 young people under age 18 try their first cigarette, and nearly 200 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.

icon US map and 34 million

34

MILLION

US adults smoke cigarettes.
icon backpack and tobacco products

3.6

MILLION

US middle and high school students use tobacco products.
icon family surrounded by smoke

58

MILLION

nonsmoking Americans are exposed to secondhand smoke.
icon money and clipboard with medical aid

$170

BILLION

is spent each year to treat smoking-related diseases.

How We Do It

Measure Tobacco Use and Translate Data Into Effective Action
people meeting with tablet on conference room table

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.
Support Comprehensive Tobacco Control Programs to Prevent and Reduce Tobacco Use
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In FY 2020, CDC provided nearly $90 million to 50 states and the District of Columbia, 8 territories, 27 tribes, 8 national networks, and several other partners to support their work in reducing tobacco-related disease and death. Awardees focus on implementing the following evidence-based strategies:

  • Prevent young people from starting to use tobacco.
  • Promote quitting among adults and young people.
  • Reduce peoples’ exposure to secondhand smoke.
  • Identify and work to eliminate tobacco-related disparities that persist and have not changed significantly over time.

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

  • Among adults, current cigarette smoking has declined from 20.9% (about 1 in 5) in 2005 to 13.7% (about 1 in 7) in 2018. The proportion of “ever smokers” who have quit has also increased.
  • Twenty-seven states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Marshall Islands, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands have comprehensive smokefree laws that prohibit smoking in all indoor areas of worksites, restaurants, and bars. Currently, almost 61.1% of the US population is protected by a comprehensive state or local smokefree law.
Help People Understand the Dangers of Smoking
A tip from a former smoker. Do your heart a favor. Quit smoking.

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 2012-2018, CDC estimates that more than 16.4 million people who smoke have attempted to quit and about 1 million have successfully quit because of the Tips campaign.
  • An economic analysis of the Tips campaign found that, for every $2,000 that OSH spends on the Tips ads, one premature death is prevented.
Help People Quit Smoking
hands and glucose meter

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

  • During the 2019 Tips campaign, people made more than 455,000 calls to 1-800-QUIT-NOW. More than 184,000 of these calls were generated by the campaign.
  • CDC created a new set of videos that demonstrate how calling a quitline can help people who smoke (or use other tobacco products) quit for good. The videos explain what people can expect when calling for the first time and how they can receive free, confidential, non-judgmental coaching.
Provide Information About the Risks Associated With Youth Tobacco Product Use
young man

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 2019, CDC posted digital and social media messages for parents and other youth influencers about the risks of e-cigarette use among youth and young adults. These messages showed up on social media newsfeeds 27 million times.
  • In 2019, CDC created a radio Public Service Announcement (PSA) for parents and youth influencers about the risks of e-cigarette use among youth and young adults. The PSA was aired more than 5,500 times and showed up on social media newsfeeds more than 8 million times.

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.

Office on Smoking and Health At A Glance pdf icon[PDF – 1 MB]

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Page last reviewed: September 18, 2020