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CDC report: U.S. adult smoking isn’t fading away

by September 13th, 2011

SUMMARY: U.S. adults made only slight progress quitting smoking between 2005 and 2010, and are not on track to meet the nation’s formal 2020 goal of only 12 percent of adults smoking, according to a new report released by the U.S. Centers For Disease Control. Almost one in five still meet the definition of “current smoker,” down only 1.6 percent over the last five full calendar years. U.S. adult smoking prevalence rates varied by age, income, race and geography, with California and Utah showing the lowest percentages. Washington state was in the second lowest cohort. Because smoking poses annual medical and productivity costs of nearly $200 billion in the U.S., and because quitting has slowed, the CDC report urges consideration of stronger deterrents including higher tobacco taxes, wider smoke-free policies for public places and workplaces, broader restrictions on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, expanded media campaigns, and better access to affordable and effective smoking cessation programs.

BACKGROUND: Tobacco is still the foremost factor in preventable sickness and death in the U.S.. Smoking results in an estimated $96 billion in direct medical expenses in the U.S. per year and $97 billion in annual lost productivity. Health consequences of tobacco use include heart disease, various types of cancer, pulmonary disease, adverse effects to babies of mothers who smoke, and the worsening of existing chronic health conditions. Researchers at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers For Disease Control used the 2005-2010 National Health Interview Surveys and the 2010 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Survey to estimate national and state prevalence of smoking among adults 18 and older. Smokers were defined as those who reported smoking more than 100 cigarettes in their lifetime and who now smoke on at least some days.

KEY LINK: Vital Signs: Current Cigarette Smoking Among Adults Aged 18 Years And Older, United States, 2005-2010, U.S. Centers For Disease Control, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, September 9, 2011


  • The U.S. government’s goal under its Healthy People 2020 guidelines is to reduce adult smoking to 12 percent of the population by 2020. In 2010, 19.3 percent of adults 18 and older – or 45.3 million people – were current cigarette smokers, versus 20.9 percent in 2005. At this rate, adult smoking in the U.S. will drop to only 17 percent by 2020, considerably above the 12 percent target.
  • Nearly four out of five U.S. adult current smokers smoked every day in 2010. Smoking prevalence was 21.4 for U.S. adult men in 2010, 17.3 percent for women. Among adult age groups, smoking was most prevalent among 25- to 44-year-olds (22%) and 45- to 64-year-olds (21.1%). Among racial groups, smoking was most prevalent for American Indians/Alaska Natives (31.4 %) followed by whites (21%) and African-Americans (20.6%). income was another marked factor. Among U.S. adults at or below the poverty level, 28.9 percent were classified as current cigarette smokers versus 18.3 percent of those at or above the poverty line.
  • By region, U.S. adult smoking was most prevalent in the Midwest (21.8%) and the South (21%) and lowest in the West (15.8%) the states with the lowest rate of smoking prevalence were utah (9.1%) and California (12.1%), the highest were West Virginia (26.8%) and Kentucky (24.8%).
  • Adults in Washington state fell into the second lowest smoking prevalence grouping, of 13 to 15.9 percent. States which “invest more fully” in anti-smoking programs are more successful in reducing adult smoking than the U.S. as a whole, California is an example. Other states with “sustained comprehensive statewide programs” such as Washington, New York and Maine, have cut youth smoking 45 to 60 percent.
  • The report concludes that “smoking among adults will remain an important public health issue for the foreseeable future unless effective tobacco control strategies are fully implemented and sustained.” Options include higher tobacco taxes, added media campaigns, smoke-free policies in more public places and workplaces, broader restrictions on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, and wider access to affordable and effective smoking cessation programs.

U.S. adult smoking prevalence by state, 2010/Centers For Disease Control

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