Surprising Stats About Smoking in the U.S.

By , SparkPeople Blogger
My 3-year old is a very perceptive (and somewhat nosey) little girl. She asks a lot of questions about people she sees when we go places. "Why is she doing that?" or "Why does he look like that?" are common kinds of questions. She’s not trying to be rude; she’s just curious about the world around her.

One of her recent questions was "What is he doing? That stuff is stinky," referring to someone who was smoking. She wanted to know all about it: what smoking is, who does it and why. I felt like I was giving good answers until she asked her last question. “Why would someone start doing that if they know it’s bad for them?” That was a little harder for me to answer, especially in a way that a 3-year old would understand. I told her that a lot less people do it than used to, because they know it’s bad for their health and they know it can be hard to quit once they start. Then I read a new report about smoking rates in the U.S., and realized a lot more people still smoke than I would have thought.

According to a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 20 percent of Americans still smoke. What’s more, between 2000 and 2005 the number of smokers continued decline. But over the past 5 years, that decline has stopped. Officials at the CDC say tobacco companies have learned to sidestep laws to attract new smokers and direct marketing towards children. According to the report, "Thirty-one percent of smokers live below the poverty level, and 25 percent never graduated from high school compared with 6 percent of those with graduate degrees." This surprised me, especially because smoking is such an expensive habit. The average cost of a pack of cigarettes is $4.50-$5.00. Can you imagine how much money people can save if they quit? Especially if you’re living below the poverty level, that money could be used to buy groceries and other important items. But I know quitting is not as simple as just wanting to stop.

The report also says that "Secondhand smoke remains a serious problem for 88 million nonsmokers. 54 percent of children aged 3 to 11 are exposed to secondhand smoke, and 98 percent of kids living with a smoker have measurable levels of toxic chemicals from cigarette smoke." So even though someone has the right to decide whether or not they start smoking and whether or not they continue, it doesn’t affect only them. It affects those around them as well.

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable illness and death in the United States. But on a positive note, it does appear that many people are smoking less, even if they are still continuing the habit.

Are you surprised by these numbers? Are you a former smoker? If so, how did you quit?

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I was a bit shocked by those numbers, I smoked from age 17 to age 42 I never said I would Quit smoking, I got very sick and was coughing all the time and had no health insurance, so I made up my mind to QUIT Smoking, I bought the patch kit and read all of it and used it for 5 weeks and I have been a non smoker since 12/12/1996 I did watch my Step dad die from Lung Cancer at age 56, that was in 1984 and a xboyfriend fell asleep and left a cig burning on my sofa and burned my apartment down in 1985 (no one was hurt) , and I still smoked after all that, even now I have low lung function, and My Dad passed away last December from Lung Cancer at age 78 , Report
I am surprised by the numbers. I didn't realize that so many who smoke are also the poorest. I am a former smoker who quit in 1988 after smoking about 10-12 years. I started back in high school where it was the cool thing to do to sneak a smoke in the restroom. When I met my husband, he absolutely hated smoking and asked me to quit. We had a bet that if I quit, he would shave his beard. I went and had acupuncture and he came with me. I'm not really sure if it was the primary reason or if it was all in my mind, but whatever it was worked. He shaved his beard, lol, and I am a much healthier person :) and don't miss any of the cost and stink associated with it. Report
After smoking for 40 yrs (started when I was 13, quit once for 16 months in the late 70's), I just decided it was time to quit. So many other bad and self-destructive behaviors went along w/ smoking, I was tired of the same old nonsense and decided giving up the cigs was a good place to start. I gained a LOT of weight at first and fight to keep it off now (I have had yo-yo weight most of my life) but I feel SO much better! It will be 3 yrs at the end of this coming March ... and I NEVER want to smoke EVER again!

I didn't use anything to help ... just good old-fashioned willpower. My theory is this: you WILL quit when you are ready to!! Report
After 30 + years, I quit smoking 7-19-2010! Used Chantix for the first 3 weeks to get past the addiction part and since then have just been determined to not EVER smoke again. I started smoking in college - thought it looked cool and mature. Then it just became a habit and helped me stay slim(or so I thought) Finally, after being fed up with the cost, and control that smoking had over my life, I am happy to be among the non-smokers!!!!!!!!!!!!! My hope is that others will read these experiences and realize what a serious addiction smoking can be and how difficult a habit it is to break. Report
The reason the numbers are so high for people living below poverty level is that they get food stamps so they can spend their money on cigarettes and don't care about saving money to buy food because they get it for free! Report
I have known 2 women who made a deliberate decision at the age of 30 to START smoking. One did it to help with stress. The other thought it made her look cool. Both look back and regret doing it. Another sad fact is more and more teenage girls here in the UK are starting to smoke because they think it will help them stay slim. Otherwise, I think the general trend here is that fewer people are smoking as it is becoming unacceptable in many places. Report
1 week smokefree today...!
And it has be PAIN-FREE and EASY.

Smoked a pack a day, since I was 12 - that's 20x365x26 = 189.800 cigarettes.

Was finally fed up - got Chanpix from the doctor, one week later I read Allen Carrs Easyway stop smoking book - smoked the last cig and went on a 3 hour walk with DH.

Haven't had any kind of abstinences, had a few MILD cravings - nothing else, have even been around smokers and out to eat, no problem :-) Report
I tried to quit last year but started up again after about two months of being smokefree. I tried again this year and so far I've been smokefree for about three and a half months. I smoked for about 55 years. Report
In a lot of cultures, smoking is a taboo. And coming from one such, the numbers _are_ really surprising! I live in India where smoking in public places is banned. But still I see many people smoking in bus stands and railway stations. I get breathing problems from second hand smoke so I usually stand away and it helps a bit.
But recently on my vacation to Singapore I was totally taken aback at seeing that most of the men are chain smokers and smoke every chance they get! We had a new tour guide everyday and every one of them smoked every 2 hours or so! Restaurants, coach bay, tourist attractions, malls - almost every closed place we visited smelled of cigarette smoke!
I'm glad so many of you quit smoking! Kudos!
No offense meant, but I could never understand how people willingly accept their first cigarette! Report
I smoked from age 20 to 25. I quit January 19, 2010, I promised myself to be smoke-free by the time I was I made it happen. I'm proud to say that today, I'm 8 months smoke free and I'm not going back! Congrats to everyone that's kicked the habit! I actually quit cold turkey. I finally got the desire and will to quit, prayed a lot, and quit. It was tough, VERY tough considering my boyfriend still smokes to this day, but I have fought through it all! Report
I was a smoker from the age of 17-22. On December 16, 2007 I found out I was pregnant. That night, I took the 15 cigarettes left in my pack, broke them all in half in one fell swoop, threw them away, and I've been smoke-free ever since. Report
I smoked for roughly 6 years. In September 1972, I quit "cold-turkey" for the first and only time. I have never smoked another cigarette. Both my parents smoked and both died from smoking-related causes. I hate cigarettes and smoking with a passion. Both of my grown sons are smokers and so far nothing has motivated them to quit permanently, much to my distress. Report
I smoked 3 packs a day. I tried everything; the patch, hypnosis, the gum, cold turkey, and I even attended a stop smoking 12 week class. I finally was able to beat the habit on January 2, 2000. I have been smoke free for over 11 years! It was hard to quit and it was more psychologically addicting than physically addicting. Just because a person wants to quit, doesn't mean they are going to be able to. My mom will be 71 this year. She started smoking when she was 18. She has tried many times to quit and is unable to leave them alone. She has emphysema and still can't quit. I wish insurance companies would look at cigarette smoking as a drug in which a person needs rehabilitation just as an illegal drug user or perscription drug user. No one really understands until you have smoked, and smoked, and smoked. Thank God I am smoke free, unless you count second-hand-smoke! My hubby smokes too! Report
Quit January 2009. I 'm healthier, happier, and I have saved tons of money! It was a win-win for me and my family! Report
I have never smoked, but have had relatives who did. Seeing people you love die before their time from cancer and emphysema is NOT pretty, and I'd rather not have to do it again. Report
I quit 332 days ago. I don't know how many times I made the attept prior to this, but I was never able to go more than a week or two. I used Chantix this time and I never set a quit date. I just started smoking less and less until I was down to one. Then I tried for 24 hours without. Then 48 Hours and the streak was on. I'm looking forward to my 1 year quit date on October 21st. Report
I've never been a smoker. My husband quit smoking cold turkey nearly 25 years ago when our grade school age children came home from school and fretted to him about cigarettes killing him. Report
I quit cold turkey 11 years ago. Report
I've never smoked. Hubby smoked all his life but quit in 2003. He had tried to quit many times before. I understand this is common, so if you're trying to quit and didn't make it, try again! He used the patch and a book by Allen Carr, plus he went to a smoking cessation seminar at our health plan. I'm so happy for him. It was hard.

Marketing of smoking has not only turned to children and lower income Americans, but to minorities and people from other countries originally. They are now the new customers that are counted on to keep the tobacco industry thriving. It is truly an addiction, so despite the increased costs of cigarettes, people still have to smoke.

I lost a sister in law to lung cancer from smoking in the 1980's. She was only in her early forties and left behind her husband and two young children, 3 and 6 years old. Truly a tragedy. Report
Cold turkey. I'd tried "help" quitting before but always started again. Using "just" my determination and resolve I did it by myself. That was harder but sunk it in deep enough that there's no way I'll ever start again. Report
I quit cold turkey almost two years ago! I was having chronic sinus infections for YEARS. My doctor flat out told me NO MORE CIGARETTES. I smoked my last one after the appt, and that was it. Now, I just struggle with eating...still. 2 years later, but it's getting better. Report
I haven't had a cigarette in 18 months and 4 days! I smoked for 7 years and they were the unhealthiest years of my life. I gained a lot of weight and felt horrible. I quit cold turkey on my sisters birthday and took up running as a healthy habbit. I ran my first 5K on my one year anniversary of not smoking and I have been doing races ever since. Ran my first half marathon on June 1st. I love to run, it is a challenge, helps me with weight loss, and a great way to relieve stress. Congratulations to all who have decided to quit and hopefully if you are thinking about quiting you realize now is the time! Report
Not really suprising!! Report
I quit a little over 2 years ago, after watching my 47 year old dad die from lung cancer. (he smoked from when he was a teenager, and yes had regret about it in the end) I used the patch, and the support of my husband. Yes I did pile on the weight, but thankfully that is one thing that you can change. I hope that you find the courage to quit and the strength to continue on the path of being a non-smoker. Report
I never smoked at all, but I was married to a smoker for 35 years....he was a PhD. It took 50 years for tobacco to kill him...he had kidney cancer, a stroke, and a massive heart attack all in a 9-month period. Ten years later, I suffer from pulmonary disease. I never believed in the power of second-hand smoke until now. If you don't quit for yourself, do it for someone you love! Report
I started smoking at 16 because if I was going to die from something, I was going to be something I did to myself. (I grew up at Ground Zero within the blast zone, back when Ground Zero was where the bombs were going to strike first and vaporize everything within 10-20 miles) So a true nihilist, I figured if I was going to die, I should be the one to do it. (ah teenage logic). I smoked for 10 years, but when I got divorced I would loose the price break at the Commissary, so I just stopped. Done. Became a non-smoker on the spot.

There was a great line in the movie Dead Again-- "Someone is either a smoker or a nonsmoker. There's no in-between. The trick is to find out which one you are, and be that. If you're a nonsmoker, you'll know." Report
I started smoking at age 13, when I was just trying to fit in and be cool. No one at that age cares if it will kill you; it's a badge of honor to be unafraid of death or sickness. I smoked for 30 years and finally had to quit because I could barely breathe and I coughed all the time. I couldn't quit on my own. I used hypnosis CD's phone counseling free classes the patch and most importantly nicotine anonymous (12 step). I had to use all that stuff. No one thought I could quit, but I did. It's been four years now. Sometimes I crave but I haven't smoked. I'm so grateful to God and to all the people who helped me! I was killing myself! Report
I smoked for about 7 years and it was something I turned to during a time in my life when I had severe pain, strange symptoms like numbness, occasional speech and vision problems. Turns out I have MS and smoking was something I would do to be alone, outside, while I read or just thought about things. I should have turned to a more positve outlet and finally was able to quit just out of will power. I think that it was possible to do so partly because I was a light smoker and then wanting to for my husband and children played a big part. I know that God helped me to do this and it is a daily temptation that I fight with still. I don't judge others who do smoke - I realize that there's a story behind each smoker's reasons for doing so. I don't consider them stupid or gross as others have said here, just in need of another outlet for what's driving them to do it. Tracey Report
I quit on January 1, 2010. I had tried medications and nicotine gum etc and none of it worked. I read Allen Carr's, "The Easy Way to Quit Smoking" and as soon as I finished the book, I never lit another cigarette. Report
I am a former smoker, I quit when after I had my third child, I didn't want the kids near the cigarettes and I was concerned with them smelling the smoke. My husband also smoked he quit after a penicillin allergy reaction which landed him in a hospital for 5 days. I almost lost him at that time and he never smoked again. My kids were very happy with that decision. Report
I'm a former smoker, but luckily I quit for the last time almost a decade ago. Almost 5 years ago, I watched my 70 year old father die of lung cancer after 60 years of smoking -- he was in horrible pain, so it ws actually a blessing that he only lasted 5 weeks after being diagnosed. Since then, I've been diagnosed with Reactive Airway Disease and just walking past someone smoking outside can cause me an asthma attack, and I've had to immediately leave establishments that allow smoking. So while I sympathize with long-time smokers who got addicted before we knew how horrible it was, I think younger smokers are stupid (myself included), and I think it should be completely banned in public and illegal to smoke in the presence of children and expose them to 2nd hand smoke. Report
It's insane and sad that even with all the knowledge and help available, people still smoke. I quit about 18 months ago with the help of Spark and the patch - and am very glad I did. Report
I grew up in a household where my father was a chain smoker and I started smoking when I was 16, mainly because most of my friends smoked. It was cheap - in the late '60's a carton, yes, a carton of cigarettes cost about $5.00! I tried quitting many times, but I have to say I enjoyed smoking. When I met my husband, he was a non-smoker and wouldn't tolerate smoking in his presence. If I lit up, he'd grab the cigarette from my mouth and crush it. If he found the pack outside of my purse, he'd crush THAT! I finally stopped smoking when I was around him. I was around him so much that I decided if I could not smoke around him, I should be able to quit altogether, so one weekend I quit cold turkey! I smoked two packs a day for ten years. WOW! That was SO HARD!! It was over a year that I didn't have the urge for a cigarette EVERY SINGLE DAY! However, it's over 30 years later and I'm still smoke free and I'm one of those non-smokers who can't even stand the smell of smoke on somebody's clothing. How about that? Report
Yes, I did smoke for over 15 yrs!! I hated the way I smelled and I couldn't breathe well. I started coughing really bad when I woke up and was sick a lot!!! My husband still smokes, but he does it in the garage or outside. I won't have it in my house. My oldest son had asthma because of my smoking and that was another reason I quit. But now he lives with his biological dad and grandma who both smoke in the house. My kids are totally turned off to smoking because they seen what it did to me and that it's killing their grandma. my mom smoked also and quit and so did my grandma and grandpa. My dad smoked as well, but didn't quit before he died of a heart attack from his diabetes.
Smoking is the worst habit other than alcoholism that anyone can have!! It is soooo bad for you and really makes you look stupid!! Report
I am not shocked that people still do this.

I know a lot of people that do and they are completely addicted. Some want to quit, and yet some have absolutely no desire to ever stop. It's so frustrating! Report
My dad smoked cigars until his doctor told him he had to stop. I've never smoked and hope I never do. I feel it's very unhealthy even for the people around the smoker. My sister smokes and I have to leave the house. No one smokes at my house as it's expensive as well. My job is having higher premuim benefits due to smokers. Report
I am not surprised. I don't smoke, but it took my mom years and many, many attempts to final quit (she hasn't smoked in over a year now). Quitting is hard, and nicotine is one of the strongest addictions. I know people who started smoking when I was in high school just a couple years ago, and even people who started just recently in college. Maybe they think it's cool, I don't know. I do wonder where they get the money.

I am not surprised that the decline in smoking has stopped. Stressful economic times make it harder to stop, and even though cigarettes are really expensive, so are different programs and supplements to help you stop like the nicotine patch and chantix. If it was easy to quit smoking, more people would do it. Report
I've never smoked. My parents did and I thought it was so gross, so I never tried it, thankfully!!!

The findings aren't surprising to me. I see people all the time with food stamp cards who then buy cigarettes. It makes me mad that people can afford cigarettes but not food and rely on taxpayer's money to eat.

We need to make the tobacco companies pay for free smoking cessation programs. Report
15 months without a one day at a time because I am the type that is one puff away from a carton...which by the way is $110-$120 (11 to 12 bucks a pack) in NYC Report
I, unfortunately am one of the 20% who smokes. I have the good intentions of quitting but haven't yet. I am currently trying to start a new healthier lifestyle so I know that quitting is one step closer...just not at that goal yet.

I have smoked since I was 12; daily since I was 16. It all started to be "a part" of a group of my friends and unforntunately for me even after those "friends" weren't in the picture the habit was already there. I am now 32 and my goal is to quit the day of my 33 birthday (that is in less than a month).

I know you aren't suppose to hold off on quitting or starting a healthy habit instead BUT I am loving the progress with my weight loss and I wanted to give myself plenty of time to be habittually eating healthier before I threw a wrench in the mix. Report
The average cost of a pack of cigarettes is $4.50-$5.00 really??? Here in Connecticut is it around $8 a pack.

I started smoking before warnings were put on cigarette packs. I quit a two pack a day year and a half ago by using chantix and cognitive therapy support group. It took several attempts to quit, with each effort I acquired more skills to assist me in my effort.

I have always discouraged others from starting. It has taken me years to finally quit. I truly wish I had never started.
I now do better things with my money. I just wish my hubby would quit. Report
I am not surprized by the numbers. Thru a highschool friend, whose son has mental problems, I learned that some people reach for cigarrettes because they are self medicating. Addictions are very complicated. It is not just quitting smoking, and cleaning up your lungs, it is addressing a lot of other problems that humans have to deal with. Report
the cost alone is enough to want to quit, i would think, but that's up to the individual. it saddens me that people continue to or even start smoking, based on all the info that's out there, but i don't walk in their shoes, so i can't really force my views on them.....glad i never started.... Report
every time i see someone smoking, part of me is surprised. "people still *do* that?" i've had family members quit or try to quit, so i realize it's tough. but it still boggles my mind. Report
I am a former smoker. I decided to quit when I found myself with a severe case of bronchitis, still lighting up, coughing like crazy, and feeling as if my lungs were on fire. It finally struck me that this was crazy! I put the cigarette down and never picked up another one. It probably helped me get through the initial nicotine withdrawal that I was really too sick to do much except struggle to breathe.

Unfortunately, those statistics don't really surprise me. I think that a lot of people who are living below poverty level are just trying to survive, to get through one day and then the next. It's probably hard for a lot of us to imagine how difficult that is day after day. That is all some people have ever known, probably all generations of their families have ever known. Add in feelings of hopelessness or depression, and I can understand how entrenched they might be in terms of their habits. I don't think people think, "Oh, if I don't buy this pack of cigarettes, I can buy a head of lettuce, some tomatoes, and carrots for my family." They are just hoping to get through the day the best way they know how and the effort to change must seem very insurmountable to some. Report
i am NOT proud to say that i'm in that (stinking) 20%!..i started smoking at 11 yrs old, stealing , from my mom, (ready for this?) chocolate/mint scented/flavored cigarettes that promised weight loss if you skipped 1 meal a day AND smoked 1 of these before each gained another 35 lbs, and i became addicted to smoking...
i continued to smoke through my teens, into 1 point i was smoking over 2 packs a day...i quit for 6 years once, still don't know why i started up again...
i live in new york, where cigarettes costs more than $10 a pack!..WHOA. MOMMA, that's more than ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS A CARTON!!!!
i AM happy to say that i'm quitting smoking, like i'm getting healthier, 1 day at a time...from 2 plus packs a DAY, i'm down to 1 to 2 packs a WEEK...feeling better, looking better, able to breath easier AND saving my current rate of progress, i'm planning to be "smoke-free" by the end of this year. Report
Hubby smokes and I hate it. There's always smoke around the house and it costs LOTS of money for him to kill himself. On a positive note, as smoking costs so much, when I want to go on a concert trip I've got a good argument when it comes to money. With all he spends to smoke I should be able to go to a concert now and then. I wish he would quit. Report
I was 11 when I started stealing them so 18 years I smoked. 2002 my dad passed away from lung cancer and 6 months later my pop from COPD so I just threw them away and haven't had one since. I gained alot of weight after that so here I am . I feel so much better for it too. Report
I quit back in 1993 and I did it the easiest way possible. I gave the problem to God. Seriously.

One night while saying my prayers I was particularly emotive about asking for help to quit. And a voice (seriously! I heard a voice!) told me that "I am here for you, but before I can help you quit you have to actually stop." Well, duh. I felt pretty silly about missing the obvious. So I then asked for help to have a day when I ran out of cigarettes right before bedtime because I'd already learned that if I didn't start smoking I could go pretty far into the day before the urge would hit.

All too soon the day came. Starting the next morning, whenever I felt an urge to smoke, in my mind I'd point at the urge and ask God to help me. Then the urge would just disappear. Like, right now. Gone. I repeated that pointing at the urge and asking God to help for 21 days. After that, I was a nonsmoker.

Now, even though I quit the easiest way possible, I still never want to do those 3 weeks again. It was still a challenge, still the most difficult thing I've ever done. I needed to remember to ask for help when the urges rose up. And those urges are strong.

But as a means of quitting, I just can't say enough about how helpful it was to have such a powerful support system. And I know that support system is available to anyone who asks for it. Report
I quit in 1973 having gotten up to 2 pks/day in the 11 years that I smoked. I had tried many times before but finally succeeded in 1973 and a good thing that I did because several years later I discovered that where I worked was full of asbestos and the two together would have posed an even more serious threat than either alone. I cold turkeyed it. I also kept a pack in the house to remind myself that it was MY decision-this was important to me-- and I put the price of the cigarettes in a jar each day that I didn't smoke. My husband of three years at the time had said one day that he had married me to be with me and that smoking would shorten our lives together. He did not nag. This was very meaningful for me and I think contributed to my success. Forty years later we are both glad that I was successful. We are constantly saddened that my sister cannot seem to kick the habit which I now know is only less addictive than crack. I did get depressed after and only recently realized that it was a contributing factor. (Antidepressants are used in smoking cessation therapy today.) Despite that pain--I am eternally grateful that I had the strength to give it up. By the way I also left that job when the asbestos cleanup was, shall we say, less than optimal--this was also very hard because I really liked that job. Two years ago I met an old co-worker who informed me that she had cancer and that no fewer than 20 people who had worked in the building where we were located had died of cancer. I consider myself very lucky. Report
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