Smoking-Related Mortality Facts

An estimated 47 million adults in the United States smoke cigarettes, even though this behavior will result in death or disability for half of all regular users. Cigarette smoking is the single most preventable cause of premature death in the United States. Each year, more than 430,000 Americans die from cigarette smoking. In fact, one in every five deaths in the United States is smoking related.

  • About 10 million people in the United States have died from causes attributed to smoking (including heart disease, emphysema, and other respiratory diseases) since the first Surgeon General's report on smoking and health in 1964—2 million of these deaths were the result of lung cancer alone.

  • Between 1960 and 1990, deaths from lung cancer among women have increased by more than 400%—exceeding breast cancer deaths in the mid-1980s. Smoking triples the risk of dying from heart disease among middle-aged men and women.

  • On average, smokers die nearly seven years earlier than nonsmokers.

  • Annually, exposure to secondhand smoke causes an estimated 3,000 deaths from lung cancer among American adults. Scientific studies also link secondhand smoke with heart disease.

  • Approximately 80% of adult smokers started smoking before the age of 18. Every day, nearly 3,000 young people under the age of 18 become regular smokers.

Smoking Prevalence among U.S. Adults, 1955–2007

(as a percent of population, 18 years of age and older)

In 2002, an estimated 45.8 million adults 18 years of age and older were current smokers in the United States, representing 50.1 percent of those who had ever smoked. For the first time, more adults have quit than are still smoking. Unfortunately, disparities in smoking prevalence by socioeconomic status have not narrowed, and may have widened during 1983-2002, highlighting the need for expanded interventions that can better reach persons with low socioeconomic status.

Year Overall population Males Females Whites Blacks
1955 -- 56.9% 28.4% -- --
1965 42.4% 51.9 33.9 42.1% 45.8%
1970 37.4 44.1 31.5 37.0 41.4
1980 33.2 37.6 29.3 32.9 36.9
1990 25.5 28.4 22.8 25.6 26.2
2000 23.3 25.7 21.0 24.1 23.2
2002 22.5 25.2 20.0 23.6 22.4
2003 21.6 24.1 19.2 22.7 21.5
2004 20.9 23.4 18.5 22.2 20.2
2007 20.8 23.9 18.0 21.9 23.0


Source: Office on Smoking and Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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