What Percentage Of Americans Smoke Cigarettes?

What is the percentage of Americans smoke cigarettes you ask?  The rate has been dropping since the 1960's when the percentage of Americans who smoke cigarettes was about 66%.  Fast forward to today and you'll find that number has dropped to about 20%.  You'd even be surprised to see what the most popular brand of cigarette is.    In 2007, 19.8% of Americans smoked cigarettes.  Public health officials hoped this marked the beginning of a long term trend below 20%.  I suppose much of this gain has to do with what is the average cost for a pack of cigarettes. 

Instead of a continued decline, the percentage of smokers in America has slightly risen in 2008.  The CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report released yesterday indicates the percentage of Americans who smoke  has risen to 20.6%  in 2008.

It is interesting to note a lot of the  blame of smoking is placed being poor, yet some of the data would suggest otherwise.  Here's a detailed chart describing the smoking habits of Americans as it relates to their sex, education and poverty level.  Hispanic  women represent some of the poorest people in our country.  Yet their rate of rate of smoking is only 10.7%,  far less than the overall percentage of smokers in this country.

I would suggest that being poor is not the causative force for smoking.  More likely, it's the  cultural dynamics that make one a smoker or not a smoker.  The fact that Hispanic women smoke at half the rates of the general public is a testament to cultural dynamics over economic status as the basis for high smoking rates among the poor.  Also note that 70% of poor people don't smoke.  Being poor cannot explain being a smoker.  I would suggest that the poor smokers have more in common culturally with non poor smokers than they do with other nonsmoking poor people.

The best public healthy policy is to make smoking an economic hardship and that means raising the price of cigarettes.  Here's a peak at   state cigarette tax rates.  The best way to reduce the rate of smoking is by making it an economic burden for those that choose to smoke.
  • Missouri ($.17)
  • Mississippi ($.18)
  • Virginia ($.30)
  • Florida ($.339)
  • North Carolina ($.35)
  • Louisiana ($.36)
  • Georgia ($.37)
  • Alabama ($.425)
  • North Dakota ($.44)
  • West Virginia ($.55)
  • Idaho ($.57)
New York City has the highest tax rates in the country, at $4.25 per pack. Chicago, Illinois is only one step down from that at $3.66 per pack.  The CDC also reports that many of the states with the lowest percentage of Americans who smoke cigarettes are also the same states with the most aggressive indoor smoking bans.  Smoking bans work, not only to protect the innocent public from the harms of second hand smoke, but also to encourage all smokers, the most of whom want to quit, to finally make the effort.  One drug company will even give you free medication if you are too poor to pay for it.  With all the free resources these days, being unable to afford help is no longer an excuse for not quitting.  The issue becomes whether you want to quit and that has more to do with the culture that surrounds you.

What percentage of Americans smoke on a state-by-state analysis?  The highest rate of smoking by state can be found in West Virginia and Indiana at 26%, with Kentucky, Missouri, Oklahoma and Tennessee close behind.  The lowest rate of smoking by state is Utah by far with only 9 percent of residents describing themselves as current smokers.

If you are a smoker, don't let the promise of government health care comfort you.  You will be rejected once the time is right.  It's already happening across the ocean as governments realize they cannot sustain  the current health care budgets for their beneficiaries.    When the tough choices have to be made, when America wakes up to realize they can't pay for all care all the time, those who chose to make poor decisions will pay the price.  If you don't believe this will happen to you, I suggest you keep puffing away.  You'll find that only about 20% of your fellow Americans will feel your pain.


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