Women's Health USA 2007
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Health Status > Health Behaviors

Cigarette Smoking

According to the U.S. Surgeon General, smoking damages every organ in the human body. Cigarette smoke contains toxic ingredients that prevent red blood cells from carrying a full load of oxygen, impairs genes that control the growth of cells, and binds to the airways of smokers. This contributes to numerous chronic illnesses, including several types of cancers, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cardiovascular disease, reduced bone density and fertility, and premature death.1

In 2005, over 60 million people in the United States aged 12 and older smoked cigarettes within the past month. Smoking was less common among females aged 12 and older (22.5 percent) than among males of the same age group (27.4 percent). The rate has declined over the past several decades among both sexes. In 1985, the rate among males was 43.4, percent while the rate among females was 34.5 percent.

Quitting smoking has major and immediate health benefits, including reducing the risk of diseases caused by smoking and improving overall health.1 In 2005, over 42 percent of smokers reported trying to quit at least once in the past year. Females were more likely than males to try to quit smoking (44.8 versus 40.7 percent). Among both males and females, non-Hispanic Blacks were the most likely to attempt to quit (48.4 and 49.6 percent, respectively).

Smoking during pregnancy can have a negative impact on the health of infants and children by increasing the risk of complications during pregnancy, premature delivery, and low birth weight—a leading cause of infant mortality.1

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 16.6 percent of pregnant women aged 15–44 smoked in 2004–05; however, this varied by race and ethnicity. Non-Hispanic White women (21.5 percent) were more likely to smoke during pregnancy than women of other races. Hispanic women were least likely to smoke during pregnancy (7.2 percent), while 15 percent of non-Hispanic Black women did so.

1 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The health consequences of smoking: a report of the Surgeon General. 2004.


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Women's Health USA 2007 is not copyrighted. Readers are free to duplicate and use all or part of the information contained on this page. Suggested Citation: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Women's Health USA 2007. Rockville, Maryland: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2007.