Adult Smoking Rates

In 2000, an estimated 46.5 million adults (23.3%) were current smokers (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2002). The prevalence of smoking was higher among men (25.7%) than among women (21.0%). Among racial/ethnic groups, Asians (14.4%) and Hispanics (18.6%) had the lowest prevalence of adult cigarette use. Native Americans/Alaska Natives had the highest prevalence (36.0%). The smoking rates for whites and blacks were 24.1% and 23.2%, respectively, and the rates of smoking among adult men and women were similar (white: 25.9% and 22.4%, respectively; black: 26.1% and 20.9%, respectively). For Hispanics and Asians, adult men smoked at considerably higher rates than adult women (24.0%, Hispanic men; 13.3%, Hispanic women; 21.0%, Asian men; 7.6%, Asian women). For Native Americans/Alaska Natives, the opposite relationship held (29.1%, men; 42.5%, women; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2002).

Adults who had earned a General Educational Development (GED) diploma had the highest prevalence of smoking (47.2%). Persons with master's, professional, and doctoral degrees had the lowest prevalence (8.4%). The prevalence of current smoking was higher among adults living below the poverty level (31.7%) than those at or above the poverty level (22.9%) (CDC, 2002).

In 2000, an estimated 44.3 million adults (22.2%) were former smokers, representing 24 million men and 19.7 million women (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2002). Among smokers, 70.0% reported that they wanted to quit smoking completely; an estimated 15.7 million (41.0%) had stopped smoking for one or more days during the preceding months because they were trying to quit; and 4.7% of smokers who had smoked every day or some days during the preceding year quit and maintained abstinence for 3-12 months in 2000. The percentage of ever smokers who had quit varied sharply by demographic group. By race/ethnicity, the percentage of persons who had ever smoked and had quit was highest for whites (51.0%) and lowest for non-Hispanic blacks (37.3%; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2002).

Although blacks have not quit smoking at the same rate as the general population (cf. Fiore, Novotny, Pierce, et al., 1990), data from large smoking intervention studies (e.g., Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial [MRFIT]; Hymowitz, Sexton, Ockene, & Grandits, 1991; Community Intervention Trial for Smoking Cessation [COMMIT]; Hymowitz et al., 1995) revealed comparable quit rates for blacks and whites. Variables that emerged as significant predictors of smoking cessation in these studies were older age, higher income, less frequent alcohol intake, lower levels of daily cigarette consumption, longer time to first cigarette in the morning, initiation of smoking after age 20, more than one previous quit attempt, a strong desire to stop smoking, absence of other smokers in the household, and male gender.

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