Slideshow: Study Highlights State of Smoking in US

Written By:Elizabeth Mendes

Cigarette smoking has been declining in the United States over the past 50 years. In 1965, about 42% of adults smoked. As of 2015, 15% said they did. That’s progress. But not enough, according to “Who’s Still Smoking? Disparities in adult cigarette smoking prevalence in the United States,” a publication from American Cancer Society researchers. It reviews how common cigarette smoking is across different groups of adults. The report was published in the journal CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians

What they found: Traditional ways to decrease tobacco use are leading to positive health effects for most groups of people, but certain vulnerable populations are having fewer health benefits. Cigarette smoking is much more common among people:

  • with less education and/or whose income puts them below the US Federal poverty level
  • within certain ethnic/racial groups
  • in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) communities
  • who have mental illness
  • in the military
  • in certain areas of the US

What ACS researchers and experts recommend: Health providers and payers, cancer organizations, and the government at the national, state, and local level need to create more new strategies that target people in these groups. For example, the US Food and Drug Administration's “This Free Life” campaign is aimed at reducing tobacco use in the LGBT community. Leaders can also put more effort into what we know works to reduce smoking, such as increasing taxes on cigarettes. In addition, tobacco cessation services should be more widely available. 


Click through the slideshow to learn how education, income, geography, and other factors affect who's still smoking.