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Smoking Facts

The latest statistics on the prevalence of cigarette smoking come from the 2003 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) that was administered to a nationally representative sample of more than 30,000 adults. The NHIS defines current smokers as persons who reported smoking every day or some days. Former smokers were defined as persons who no longer smoked. The NHIS results indicated that, in 2003, approximately 21.6% of U.S. adults were current smokers. This number suggests a decline in prevalence from 22.5% in 2002. In fact, over the past decade, smoking rates have steadily declined among most age groups in the U.S. Smoking cessation rates suggest a similar trend. The NHIS findings show that among the estimated 43.4% (91.5 million) of persons who had ever smoked, 50.3% (45.9 million) were classified as former smokers in 2003. While progress has been made in decreasing smoking rates overall, prevalence remains high among certain subpopulations of smokers. More men (24.1%) than women (19.2%) smoke. Smoking is highest among American Indians and Alaska Natives (39.7%) compared to Asians (11.7%) and Hispanics (16.4%). Smoking rates tend to vary by education level, with prevalence highest among adults who had earned a General Educational Development diploma (44.4%) and lowest among those with graduate degrees (7.5%). Across age groups, prevalence is highest in persons aged 25-44 years (25.6%) and lowest among persons aged greater than 65 years (9.1%).