Skip directly to search Skip directly to A to Z list Skip directly to navigation Skip directly to page options Skip directly to site content

Smoking Prevalence - Lifestyle Risk Factors

On this Page

Smoking and Health

Tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of death and disease in the United States Smoking harms nearly every organ of the body. It causes many diseases and reduces the health of smokers in general. The negative health effects from cigarette smoking account for an estimated 443,000 deaths, or nearly 1 of every 5 deaths, each year in the United States. The average smoker dies 7-8 years too early. Tobacco use causes more deaths each year than all deaths combined from:

  • human immunodeficiency virus (HIV),
  • illegal drug use,
  • alcohol use,
  • motor vehicle injuries,
  • suicides, and
  • murders.

Smoking has been estimated to cost the United States $96 billion in direct medical expenses and $97 billion in lost productivity each year.

Compared to nonsmokers, smoking is estimated to increase the risk of many different diseases.

Coronary Heart Disease

Smoking is estimated to increase coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States, by 2 to 4 times. Cigarette smoking nearly doubles a person's risk for stroke. It causes reduced circulation by narrowing the blood vessels (arteries). This puts smokers at risk of developing peripheral vascular disease, or obstruction of the large arteries in the arms and legs that can cause a range of problems from pain to tissue loss or gangrene.

Respiratory Disease

Smoking damages the airways of the lungs. It is estimated that male smokers are 23 times more likely than nonsmokers to develop lung cancer, and female smokers are 13 times more likely to develop lung cancer.

Smoking causes other lung diseases, such as:


Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death, and cigarette smoking causes almost all cases. Smoking causes 90% of lung cancer deaths in men and almost 80% in women. Smoking also causes the following cancers:

  • acute myeloid leukemia
  • bladder cancer
  • cancer of the cervix
  • cancer of the esophagus
  • kidney cancer
  • cancer of the larynx (voice box)
  • cancer of the oral cavity (mouth)
  • pancreatic cancer
  • cancer of the pharynx (throat)
  • stomach cancer

Research has shown that smoking during pregnancy causes health problems for both mothers and babies, such as

Reproductive and Birth Outcomes

Although some people who smoke every day are consuming fewer cigarettes per day, even occasional smoking causes harm, and the best option for any smoker is to quit completely. For tips on quitting smoking, visit CDC's Tips from Former Smokers.

Exposure and Risk

In 2010, 19.3% of United States adults were current cigarette smokers. Many factors influence tobacco use, disease, and death. Risk factors include:

  • race/ethnicity
  • age
  • education
  • socioeconomic status

Tobacco use rates differ significantly from state to state. Higher smoking prevalence was observed in the Midwest (21.8%) and South (21.0%). These differences likely are due to the differences in smoke-free protections, tobacco prices, and program funding for tobacco prevention among states.

Cigarette smoking prevalence among all adults aged 18 years and older has decreased 42.4% since 1965. However, declines in current smoking prevalence have slowed in recent years and did not meet the United States Health and Human Services' Healthy People 2010 objective to reduce cigarette smoking among adults to 12% or less.

The groups with the highest prevalence of smoking include

  • those with less than a high school education (28.4%),
  • those with no health insurance (28.6%),
  • those living below the federal poverty level (27.7%), and
  • those aged 18-24 years (23.8%).

Research shows that 19.6% of working adults smoke cigarettes; that is about 1 of every 5 people. The prevalence of smoking differs significantly among different jobs. Smoking prevalence ranges from 8.7% in people who work in education, training, and library to 31.4% in people who work in construction. Although some progress has been made in reducing smoking prevalence among working adults, additional effective employer interventions need to be implemented, including

  • health insurance coverage for cessation treatments,
  • easily accessible help for those who want to quit, and
  • smoke-free workplace policies.

For more information on smoking and tobacco use, visit CDC's Quit Smoking Web site.

 Top of Page