Smoking in the US

Smoking in the US 

  • Cigarette smoking continues to be the leading cause of preventable morbidity and mortality in the United States, causing approximately 443,000 premature deaths annually according to the results of  the 2009 National Health Interview Survey and the 2009 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Cigarette smokers were defined as adults aged ≥18 years who reported having smoked ≥100 cigarettes in their lifetime and now smoke every day or some days.1
  • In 2009, 21% of U.S. adults (47 million) were current cigarette smokers. Men (24%) were more likely than women (18%) to be current smokers. The prevalence of smoking was 31% among persons below the federal poverty level and 29% among persons with less than a high school diploma, but only 6% among those with a graduate degree. From 2005 to 2009, the proportion of U.S. adults who were current cigarette smokers did not change.
  • Among racial/ethnic groups, Asians had the lowest prevalence (12%), and Hispanics had a lower prevalence of smoking (15%) than African Americans (21%) and whites (22%). Adults reporting multiple races had the highest prevalence (30%), followed by American Indians (23%). Smoking was lowest for adults aged ≥65 years (10%).
  • Regional differences were observed, with the West having the lowest prevalence (16%) and higher prevalences being observed in the South (22%) and Midwest (23%).  Kentucky (27%) and West Virginia (26%) had the highest and Utah (10%) and California (13%) had the lowest smoking prevalence.
  • The Healthy People 2010 objective of reducing the overall prevalence of cigarette smoking among U.S. adults to ≤12% (objective 27-1a) will not be met in 2010.
  • Previous declines in smoking prevalence in the United States have stalled during the past 5 years; the burden of cigarette smoking continues to be high, especially in persons living below the federal poverty level and with low educational attainment. Sustained, adequately funded, comprehensive tobacco control programs could reduce adult smoking.
  • In 2009, certain population subgroups (e.g., Hispanic and Asian women, persons with higher levels of education, and older adults) continue to meet the Healthy People 2010 target of ≤12% prevalence of smoking.
  • Although smoking prevalence was found to be lowest among Asian and Hispanic women, the findings in this report cannot assess specific Asian and Hispanic subgroups. However, overall prevalence for Asians and Hispanics do not accurately represent the wide variability across subgroups. 
  • The United States is rapidly approaching a “tobacco tipping point” with very low smoking prevalence in many segments of the society. Smoking rates 2% among physicians,  with a national average of 21%.2 


1. Vital signs: current cigarette smoking among adults aged >or=18 years — United States, 2009. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. Sep 10 2010;59(35):1135-1140.

2. Schroeder S A. Shattuck Lecture. We can do better–improving the health of the American people. N Engl J Med. Sep 20 2007;357(12):1221-1228.

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