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Scope of Tobacco Use in the United States

Approximately one-fourth of the population uses tobacco products, and 19.4% smoke cigarettes. According to a 2016 national survey, an estimated 63.4 million people age 12+ had used a tobacco product during the past month, including 51.3 million cigarette smokers.

Smoking rates continue to go down year to year. The percentage of people over age 18 who smoke cigarettes declined from 20.9% in 2005 to 15.8% in 2016, according to a 2017 national survey.

Smoking Rates Are Substantially Higher Among:

  • Those with mental disorders, including addiction. This population accounts for 25% of all Americans, but for 40% of all cigarettes smoked in the U.S.
  • Those living below the poverty line or with low educational attainment. More than 40% of people with a General Education Development certificate (GED) smoke—which is the highest prevalence of any socioeconomic group.
  • People who live in rural areas, particularly in the South Atlantic states. This population uses all forms of tobacco at higher rates than people who live in urban areas. These differences cannot be fully explained by different levels of poverty or affluence.

Smoking Among Youth

Smoking among youth is at historically low levels. According to 2015 national surveys,

  • An estimated 4.7 million middle and high school students had used tobacco products during the past month
  • E-cigarettes were the most commonly used tobacco products among middle (5.3%) and high school (16%) students

Note: E-cigarettes deliver synthetic nicotine and do not contain tobacco; however, they are classified as tobacco products for regulatory purposes. Scientists have not yet determined the medical consequences of long-term e-cigarette use or the secondhand effects of e-cigarette vapor.

The Scope of Vaping in the U.S.

  • Current cigarette smokers are more likely to use e-cigarettes.
  • About 10% of adults who use e-cigarettes had never smoked previously.
  • 13% of daily e-cigarette users are former smokers who quit during the past year.
  • E-cigarette use is higher among people with mental health conditions—with 3.1% currently using, compared with 1.1% of those without mental illness.

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