Smoking Cigarettes Trends In The US

Around 17 of every 100 U.S. adults are cigarette smokers, with the highest rates in the South and Midwest.


Nationwide, there are approximately 40 million adults in America who smoke cigarettes regularly. Still, U.S. smoking rates pale in comparison to those of many other parts of the world. Of all regions of the United States, Midwesterners have the highest percentage of smokers in America, while the West Coast has the lowest rates.

Health Effects of Tobacco Smoke

Cigarette smoking places users at significantly higher risk for a number of deadly outcomes, including lung cancer and serious cardiovascular diseases. Cigarette smoking accounts for no less than 400,000 deaths annually, which is the top cause of preventable mortality and illness in America. This translates to one out of every five deaths. This despite the widespread anti-smoking efforts of both government and nongovernmental agencies in the country.

Regional Trends

As far as the US Census Region is concerned, percentage of cigarette smokers have been found to be lowest in the West and highest in the Midwest with the former at 20.7% and the latter at 13.1%. Wedged between these two are the Southerners with 17.2% and the people from the Northeast with a percentage of 15.3%. West Virginia has the highest percentage of cigarette smokers in the United States, and 27.3% of its adult residents are smokers. The mountainous state is closely followed by Kentucky (26.5%), Arkansas (25.9%), Mississippi (24.8%), Tennessee (24.3%), Oklahoma (23.7%), Louisiana (23.5%), Ohio (23.4%), Alaska (22.6%), Missouri (22.1%), South Carolina (22%), Indiana (21.9%), Alabama (21.5%) and Michigan (21.4%).

Demographic Patterns

According to recent statistics provided by the US government, women are less likely to smoke than men. Within and between genders, no less than 19 out of every 100 adults males and 15 out of every 100 adult females are smokers in the U.S. Another demographic trend worth noting among U.S. residents is the likelihood that they will smoke in relation to their age. Indeed, smoking has been found to be much more prevalent among people who are aged younger than 65 years than those who are 65 years and older. Of them all, 16.7% fall under the youngest age bracket of adults (18-25 years), while 20% are from the 25-44 years-old age group. Remarkably, only 8.5% of those 65 years and older smokers, which may be attributed to the fact that the elderly are often more careful with how they spend their remaining years, and may be more financially constrained from purchasing cigarettes. Smoking rates also vary greatly by ethnicity, and people of multiple ethnic backgrounds exhibit the highest smoking rates of in the United States. As of 2015, there are higher rates of current smokers from the non-Hispanic American Indians/Alaska Natives than all the other races residing in America, accounting for almost 30% of their smoking population. Non-Hispanic Asians rank the lowest (9.5%) while non-Hispanic Whites have a percentage of 18.2%. Do note that Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders are not included in the non-Hispanic Asian category.

Poverty and Lack of Education

Not surprisingly, cigarette smoking is higher among populations living below the poverty level, garnering a percentage of 26.3%, which translates to no less than 26 out of every 100 adults in the income bracket. These poverty thresholds are based on data provided by the US Census Bureau. Additionally, people with graduate education degree (GED) certificates were found to have the highest percentage of cigarette smokers compared to those without a GED or diploma. Those who are without diploma have quite a high percentage of 22.9%, although still considerably lower compared to adults with GED certificates, whose smoking rates stand at 43%. Meanwhile, those graduating college have smoking rates much lower still, standing in the single digits. Indeed, many of the states with the highest smoking rates also have some of the lowest median income levels and lowest rates of attainment of post-secondary degrees.

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