Cigarette smoking is the number one cause of preventable disease and death worldwide. Smoking-related diseases claim over 393,000 American lives each year. Smoking cost the United States over $193 billion in 2004, including $97 billion in lost productivity and $96 billion in direct health care expenditures, or an average of $4,260 per adult smoker.1

Key Facts About Smoking

  • Cigarette smoke contains over 4,800 chemicals, 69 of which are known to cause cancer. Smoking is directly responsible for approximately 90 percent of lung cancer deaths and approximately 80-90 percent of COPD (emphysema and chronic bronchitis) deaths.2
  • Among adults who have ever smoked, 70% started smoking regularly at age 18 or younger, and 86% at age 21 or younger.3
  • Among current smokers, chronic lung disease accounts for 73 percent of smoking-related conditions. Even among smokers who have quit chronic lung disease accounts for 50 percent of smoking-related conditions.4
  • Smoking harms nearly every organ in the body, and is a main cause of lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD, including chronic bronchitis and emphysema). It is also a cause of coronary heart disease, stroke and a host of other cancers and diseases.5

Smoking Rates Among Adults & Youth

  • In 2009, an estimated 46.6 million, or 20.6 percent of adults (aged 18+) were current smokers.6
  • Men tend to smoke more than women. In 2009, 23.5 percent of men currently smoked compared to 17.9 percent of females.7
  • Prevalence of current smoking in 2009 was highest among non-Hispanic whites (22.2%) intermediate among non-Hispanic blacks (21.3%), and lowest among Hispanics (14.5%) and Asians (12.0%).8
  • In 2009, 19.5 percent of high school students were current smokers.9 Over 5 percent of middle school students were current smokers in 2009.10

Smoking During Pregnancy

  • Smoking in pregnancy accounts for an estimated 20 to 30 percent of low-birth weight babies, up to 14 percent of preterm deliveries, and some 10 percent of all infant deaths. Even apparently healthy, full-term babies of smokers have been found to be born with narrowed airways and reduced lung function.11
  • In 2005, 10.7 percent of all women smoked during pregnancy, down almost 45 percent from 1990.12
  • Neonatal health-care costs attributable to maternal smoking in the U.S. have been estimated at $366 million per year, or $704 per maternal smoker.13

Facts About Quitting Smoking

  • Nicotine is the ingredient in cigarettes that causes addiction. Smokers not only become physically addicted to nicotine; they also link smoking with many social activities, making smoking an extremely difficult addiction to break.14
  • In 2009, an estimated 49.9 million adults were former smokers. Of the 46.6 million current adult smokers, 46.7 percent stopped smoking at least 1 day in the preceding year because they were trying to quit smoking completely.15
  • Quitting smoking often requires multiple attempts. Using counseling or medication alone increases the chance of a quit attempt being successful; the combination of both is even more effective.16
  • There are seven medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to aid in quitting smoking. Nicotine patches, nicotine gum and nicotine lozenges are available over-the-counter, and a nicotine nasal spray and inhaler are currently available by prescription. Buproprion SR (Zyban) and varenicline (Chantix) are non-nicotine pills.17
  • Individual, group and telephone counseling are effective. Telephone quitline counseling is widely available and is effective for many different groups of smokers.18

The American Lung Association has more information available on quitting smoking and ourprograms to help you do so, our advocacy efforts to reduce tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke, and tobacco use trends on our website at, or through the Lung HelpLine at 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872).


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