Cigarette Smoking

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Who smokes cigarettes?


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that about 42 million US adults were cigarette smokers in 2012 (the most recent year for which numbers are available). This is 18% of all adults (21% of men, 16% of women) – a bit under 1 in 5 people.

When broken down by race/ethnicity, the numbers were as follows:



    African Americans




    American Indians/Alaska Natives


    Asian Americans


    Multi-racial people


Also according to CDC’s 2012 data, there were more cigarette smokers in younger age groups than in elders. Part of this may be due to early deaths in older smokers:

    Ages 18-24


    Ages 25-44


    Ages 45-64


    65 and older


High school and middle school students

Nationwide, 14% of high school students were smoking cigarettes in 2012. This does not include the 13% that smoked cigars, most of which are now small, filtered, and sold in packs just like cigarettes. They’re included here because most people who smoke these little cigars use them just like cigarettes, smoking several a day and inhaling the smoke. Kids like them because they cost less and can have chocolate, fruit, and other candy flavors added – unlike cigarettes (see our document Cigar Smoking).

The most recent survey of middle school students, done in 2012, shows that about 4% were smoking cigarettes, and nearly 3% smoked cigars (again, despite falling into the legal definition of “large cigars” most of these are small and filtered. They’re smoked like cigarettes and, except for the color, look like cigarettes.) In both high schools and middle schools, white and Hispanic students were more likely to smoke cigarettes than other races/ethnicities. But far more black students used cigars.

For more information, see our document called Child and Teen Tobacco Use.

Last Medical Review: 02/20/2014
Last Revised: 02/20/2014