U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration

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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 2007, 19.8 percent of adults aged 18 and older smoked cigarettes some days or every day. Current cigarette smoking varied by sex and race/ethnicity. Men were more likely to smoke cigarettes than women overall (22.3 versus 17.4 percent, respectively), and in most racial and ethnic groups. Among women, non-Hispanic women of other races were most likely to be current cigarette smokers (31.0 percent), followed by non-Hispanic White women (19.8 percent). Non-Hispanic Asian women were least likely to smoke cigarettes (4.0 percent).

The likelihood of being a current cigarette smoker declines as a person’s level of education increases. In 2006, women aged 25 years and older with less than a high school diploma were most likely to smoke cigarettes (26.0 percent), while only 7.2 percent of those with a college degree or higher did so. Cigarette smoking among women of every education level has declined in the past decade.

Quitting smoking has major and immediate health benefits, including reducing the risk of diseases caused by smoking and improving overall health.1 In 2007, more than 44 percent of current female smokers aged 18 and older reported trying to quit at least once in the past year; however, this varied by age. Women aged 18–44 were most likely to have attempted quitting smoking (48.6 percent), followed by women aged 45–64 years (41.3 percent). Fewer than 30 percent of female cigarette smokers aged 65 years and older attempted to do so (data not shown).

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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