smoking USA


It's hard to imagine a killer could be so cool, but for decades few dirty habits were as sophisticated and sexy as "taking a drag off death." No longer - Surgeon General reports, lawsuits, state laws and a successful anti-smoking movement have made smoking only slightly less despised than halitosis. Still millions of Americans smoke. Advocates would bring down the number of smokers even further, while a scant number of libertarians think the war on smokers has gone far enough.

how many of us are smoking

  • 44.5 million adults CDC

over the years - % of high school seniors and adults who smoke

source: CDC (copied and pasted)

death and disease

Smoking kills:

  • 440 thousand Americans a year (CDC) (out of about 2.5. million deaths - CDC - pdf)

  • 100 thousand Americans a year (Heartland)

how those smoking related deaths pan out

source: CDC

Second hand smoke...

  • causes 3,000 nonsmoking Americans to die of lung cancer a year (EPA, CDC)

  • causes 35,000 to die of heart disease (CDC)

  • causes 150,000–300,000 cases of lower respiratory tract infections in children under 18 months (EPA, CDC)

  • increases the chances of infants getting (ACSH)

    • asthma by 100%

    • a middle ear infection by 62%

    • a lower respiratory disease by 75%

  • has a risk ratio of 1.19 (Heartland) (not sure what that means, but Heartland argues that the relative risks are minimal)

  • being exposed to a pack a day smoker is like smoking 1/8th of a cigarette a day (CRS - '95)


  • $75 billion per year in medical expenditures (CDC)

  • $92 billion per year resulting from lost productivity (CDC)

state laws

  • number of states that restrict smoking in public places: 46 (2005 - ALA - pdf)

  • number of states that restrict smoking in private workplaces: 41 (2005 - ALA - pdf)


federal tax on cigarettes

  • 39 cents a pack (TFK)

how much states are taxing cigarettes (2005 - ALA - pdf)

  • median average: 80 cents; mean average: 70 cents (TFK)

  • highest tax: $2.46 in Rhode Island

  • lowest tax: 7 cents in South Carolina

states raise

  • $13 billion in taxes on tobacco products (out of $648 billion in total state taxes) 2005 Census

hitting the poor the hardest -

percent who smoke: (1995 - CBPP - pdf)

  • 29% of adults with family incomes below $15,000 and

  • 27% of adults with family incomes between $15,000 and $25,000

  • 17% of adults with family incomes above $50,000.

how much they spend:

  • the poorest 1/4 of Americans: 3.2% of their income

  • the richest 1/4 of Americans: 0.4% of their income

taxes save lives (1995 - CBPP - pdf)

  • a 25% hike in cigarette prices from taxes leads to an 11% drop in cigarette consumption (in the short term - in the longer term studies suggest there's an even bigger drop).


  • 1964 - Surgeon General says cigarettes cause cancer (UM)

  • 1965 - Congress requires warning labels on cigarettes (UM)

  • 1971 - tv ads for cigarettes are banned

  • 1988 - Congress bans smoking on short domestic flights of two hours or less - in 1990 goes up to flights of six hours or less (UM)

  • 1988 - the Surgeon General says nicotine is an addictive substance

  • 1992 - first federal law requiring states restrict sales of cigarettes to minors (UM)

  • 1993 - EPA classifies second hand smoke as a carcinogen (UM)

  • 1995 - the FDA calls cigarettes "drug delivery devices" and proposes regs on marketing and sales (ACSH)

  • 1998 - 46 states and tobacco industry agree on Master Settlement - states drop their lawsuits in exchange for $200 billion over 20 years (but likely to end up being lower due to drop in smoking and other reasons). 4 other states had already settled in separate case for $40 billion.

  • 2000 - Supreme Court rules that the FDA can't regulate tobacco products until Congress says so (ACSH)

Did we miss something, let some slant slip in, lose a link - or do you just have something to say? Drop a line below! In the spirit of open dialogue, cJ asks you keep it civil, keep it real and keep it focused on the message, not the messenger. See our policy page for more on what that all means.

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Mark_G | January 17, 2010 - 11:10pm


We have to do all we can to get smoking banned!

a random girl (not verified) | December 24, 2009 - 2:42pm


Smoking is an addiction like many other things Americans do every day that can harm or even kill them. Some are addicted to being a workaholic and that has proven to kill men faster then if they had not stressed so badly to over work. Or addicted to plastic surgery or addicted to beer, all are legal acts to do and they have the potential to kill us. We have many other vises that have the potential to kill us and those with us. Does the Government or States want to give up the millions they collect in taxes from a product that is still legal to purchase and consume? Do the cigarette manufactures really want to remove the addictive chemicals in there products or develop a safe way to stop with out risk in the side effects of the options now offered? I feel in many ways if the cigarette companies took a great effort in really removing the addictive chemicals that are now in cigarettes it would help those smoking who have tired every thing on the market to stop and nothing has worked for them yet. Billions would be lost in revenue and a huge business and its workers would be out of jobs, or it would simply be taken to another country to produce and would become another underground market untaxed and continued to be exploited by those hopelessly addicted to it. Besides any issue of illness, or taxing, special interests groups do not and should not have the power to force there will on another part of a free society this is the truly much larger unrealistic issue here to me. It is a freedom. Our country has so many more pressing problems then cigarettes or smokers, the people should still have the freedom to pursue happiness if my memory serves me, if smoking gives someone happiness just as beer or wine gives to others then they still have the right to pursue life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We go to bed each night with the threat of real nuclear attacks being played out on American soil by rouge countries who have openly expressed there wishes for us all to be extinguished from this planet and you seem feel smoking would take president over this or many other issues facing mankind and this planet. The genocide going on right now in Africa in a place called darfur has cost more lives then cigarettes. If you do not like the smoke move away from the person smoking, with out being rude. If you don’t like what is on the TV change the channel? But for goodness sake let people have there own choice on how they live there lives even if it offends you, We must learn to agree to disagree and let others go about there own personal lives in PEACE. thank you for allowing me to share my opinion.

a random Joe (not verified) | July 28, 2008 - 5:26am


We are not doing all we can. If we were, then people would either have a limited smoking area and time, or smoking would be completely banned. If you think we are doing all we can, take a good look around you. Around 430,000 Americans die every year because they like to smoke. Also, around 40,000 people who haven't smoked a day in their life are dying from secondhand smoke. The costs of all smoking-related deaths has skyrocketed into the trillions of dollars. No, if we were doing all we could, those numbers would be a lot farther down.

a random Joe (not verified) | May 20, 2008 - 9:56pm

no we are not

no we are not

a random Joe (not verified) | April 17, 2008 - 11:56am



a random Joe (not verified) | December 13, 2007 - 11:22am


Are we doing all we can?

dujardin | December 13, 2007 - 11:01am