New Report on Cigarette Smoking in USA

An important new report funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation was released this week by Dr Gary Giovino and colleagues. This report provides details on recent changes in cigarette smoking in every state. It used the best quality data from large national surveys (e.g. the Current Population Survey and the National Health Interview Survey) and so it is the best available guide to cigarette consumption.

Here are some of the main findings:
From 1955 to 2007 U.S. cigarette smoking rates fell from 57% to 22% in men and from 28% to 17% in women, with an overall rate (both sexes) of 20% in 2007.

However, the smoking rates vary considerably by educational status. Around a third of people without a completed high school education smoke, compared with less than 10% of those with at least 16 years of education smoke.

There are also fairly dramatic differences in smoking rates between states. Smoking rates range from lows of 12.4% in Utah, 12.6% in California and 13.7% in New Jersey, up to 25.6% in Oklahoma, 26.2% in West Virginia and 28.2% in Kentucky.

The places with the highest smoking rates also have the highest death rates from smoking. Thus in California the mortality rate per 100,000 is 235, whereas in Kentucky it is 371. In Utah the age-standardized death rate from lung cancer in men is 34/100,000 whereas in Kentucky it is 108/100.000.

This report makes it easy to find out how your own state compares to the rest of the country, on a whole range of measures related to cigarette use. I was very pleased to find that my home state, New Jersey, has the third lowest smoking rate in the country (13.7%)_and the highest proportion of smokers who have quit smoking (62%, compared with 52% nationally and 41% in West Virginia).

Important progress is being made on increasing state and federal cigarette taxes, and broadening smoke-free workplaces (by legislation) and homes (by family choice). However, there are some warning signs. While CDC recommends that 12% of the money received by states from the Master Settlement Agreement should be invested in tobacco control, that figure was only 2.7% in 2007, a drop from 2001-2.

You can view the complete report online at:

Giovino GA et al. Cigarette Smoking Prevalence and Policies in the 50 States: an Era of Change.. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Impacteen Tobacco Chart Book. Buffalo, NY. University at Buffalo, State University of New York, 2009.
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About the Author

MA, MAppSci, PhD

Dr. Jonathan Foulds is an expert in the field of tobacco addiction.