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, impair genes that control the growth of cells, and bind 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 2008, women aged 18 and older were more likely than men never to have smoked cigarettes in their lifetime (62.8 versus 52.4 percent, respectively). Women were just as likely to be current cigarette smokers as former smokers (18.3 and 18.9 percent, respectively). Similarly, among men, 23.1 percent were current smokers and 24.5 percent were former smokers.

The proportion of women who have never smoked cigarettes was greater among those with higher incomes. Women with household incomes of 400 percent or more of poverty or 200–399 percent of poverty (65.1 and 62.7 percent, respectively) were more likely than women with household incomes below 100 percent of poverty to have never smoked cigarettes (57.9 percent).

Quitting smoking has major and immediate health benefits, including reducing the risk of diseases caused by smoking and improving overall health.1 In 2008, more than 48 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 years were most likely to have attempted to quit smoking (51.5 percent), compared to women aged 45–64 years (45.8 percent) and 65 years and older (42.0 percent; 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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