- Questions About Smoking, Tobacco, and Health
- Is smoking tobacco really addictive?
- Why do people start smoking?
- How many people use tobacco?
- What in tobacco smoke is harmful?
- Is secondhand (environmental) tobacco smoke dangerous?
- How does tobacco use affect the economy?
- What’s being done to protect people from the hazards of smoking?
- Are spit tobacco and snuff safe alternatives to smoking?
- What are the health risks of smoking pipes or cigars?
- What about electronic cigarettes? Aren’t they safe?
- Is dissolvable tobacco safe?
- What about more exotic forms of smoking tobacco, such as clove cigarettes, bidis, and hookahs?
- What can I do to help with any damage that may have been caused by smoking?
- Can quitting really help a lifelong smoker?
- How do people quit tobacco?
- To learn more
How many people use tobacco?
Cigarette smoking has decreased among adults in the United States from about 42% of the population in 1965 to about 19% in 2011 (the latest year for which numbers are available).But it’s still the most common form of tobacco use in the US: about 43.8 million (or 1 in every 5) adults currently smoke cigarettes. About 22% of men and 17% of women were cigarette smokers in 2011. Education is linked to smoking rates, with lower smoking rates in groups with higher levels of education. More people smoke in the Midwest (22%) and South (21.0%), and fewer smoke in the West (15%).
Tobacco use does not end with cigarettes; other forms of tobacco use are common. In 2010, a survey by the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration found that 8.9 million people used smokeless or spit tobacco. The same survey reported that 13.2 million smoked cigars, and 2.2 million people smoked tobacco in pipes.
Is tobacco use common among young people?
Yes. Tobacco use, including smoking cigarettes and cigars, using chew or spit tobacco, and dipping snuff, is common among American youth, according to the most recent government surveys.
Despite declines in recent years, in 2011 nearly 1 in 3 male high school students (28%) and nearly 1 in 5 female high school students (19%) were found to be current users of some type of tobacco.
Nearly 1 in 5 students (18%) were considered current cigarette smokers. Half of these students (50%) reported they had tried to quit smoking during the past year.
Cigar smoking was also common among high school students (about 8% of females and 18% of males). Even though flavorings are no longer allowed in cigarettes, “little cigars” (which often look like brown cigarettes) are sold in candy and fruit flavors.
Also in 2011, about 6% of middle school girls and 8% of middle school boys used some form of tobacco, with cigarettes (about 4%) being the most common in both genders.
In both middle school and high school, tobacco use was higher among male students for all products.
Behavioral problems have also been linked to smoking. Studies have shown that students who smoke are also more likely to use other drugs, get in fights, carry weapons, try to kill themselves, and take part in risky sex.
Last Medical Review: 11/08/2012
Last Revised: 01/17/2013