Smoking and vaping remain stable and low in the United States

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Highlights of history

  • 16% say they smoked cigarettes in the past week, near the record high of 15%
  • 6% say they have vaped last week, including 17% of 18-29 year olds
  • 72% of smokers would like to quit

WASHINGTON, DC – The percentage of Americans who smoke cigarettes remains stable near its lowest point. The 16% of U.S. adults who currently report smoking cigarettes in the past week is statistically the same as the all-time low of 15% in 2019.

Line graph. Percentage of Americans who report having smoked cigarettes in the past week, trend since 1944. Currently, in 2021, 16% of American adults report having smoked cigarettes in the past week. The previous reading, in 2019, was 15%, the lowest on record. Reading has not exceeded 19% since 2015.

Gallup has been tracking Americans’ cigarette consumption since 1944, including annual measurements for most years since 1985. Between 1944 and 1974, at least 40% of American adults reported smoking cigarettes in the past week, of which a maximum of 45% in 1954. However, by the end of the 1970s, television advertisements on smoking had been banned and anti-smoking campaigns and advocacy groups for non-smokers became more prevalent, probably contributing to a decrease in smoking.

By 1977, Americans’ self-reports of smoking had fallen below 40%, and they remained there until 1988. After that, smoking rates fell to between 20% and 29% for more than two decades. During this period, there has been increased government regulation of the Big Tobacco companies and numerous lawsuits against them. Since 2015, the smoking rate in the United States has been consistently below 20%.

In addition to the 16% of American adults who currently smoke cigarettes, 23% report having smoked cigarettes regularly before. The combined 39% of Americans who have ever smoked cigarettes regularly are down from 53% in 1994, the first year Gallup measured prior smoking behavior.

Just as the percentage of Americans who smoke has declined over the past three decades, so has the number of cigarettes that American smokers say they smoke each day. Since 1999, the majority of smokers report smoking less than one pack per day. Currently, 67% say they smoke less than one pack of cigarettes per day. That’s lower than the last reading, 74%, in 2019, which tied the record.

Line graph. American self-reported daily cigarette consumption, trend since 1944. Currently, 67% of American adults who have smoked cigarettes in the past week report that they smoke less than a pack of cigarettes, 25% a pack, and 6% more than a package. The percentage of people who say they smoke less than one pack a day has been on the rise since the late 1990s.

Another Gallup trend among smokers reveals that large majorities (ranging from 58% to 82%) since 1977 have said they would like to quit. Currently, 72% of American adults who smoke want to quit.

Although there are many methods of smoking cessation, some people have substituted vaping, which is the use of electronic cigarettes, for conventional cigarettes. This method of quitting smoking is not approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration.

Gallup previously measured the use of e-cigarettes by Americans in 2019. The latest reading reveals that 6% of American adults report having vaped in the past week, which is about the same as the 8% who do. ‘said in 2019.

Biggest differences in smoking and vaping behaviors by age, income and education

Although vaping is much less common than conventional smoking, Americans who smoke or vape are more likely to have lower annual household incomes (less than $ 40,000) and lower education (high school or less). Twenty-eight percent of low-income adults and those with a high school diploma or less smoke cigarettes, with 10% of each group vaping.

Vaping is more popular among young adults aged 18 to 29, while conventional smoking is more popular among those aged 30 to 64. Young Americans are slightly more likely to say they vape (17%) than smoke conventional cigarettes (14%), while those in all other major demographic groups are more likely to smoke cigarettes than to vape.

Smoking behavior of Americans, by subgroup

% who smoked in the past week

Smoked cigarettes Smoked e-cigarettes (vaped)
% %
american adults 16 6
Genre
Man 17 7
Women 15 5
age range
18-29 14 17
30-49 20 5
50-64 19 2
65+ ten *
Annual household income
Less than $ 40,000 28 ten
$ 40,000 to $ 99,999 12 4
$ 100,000 or more 8 3
Education
High school or less 28 ten
Some college 13 5
University graduate 6 4
Postgraduate 5 1
* Less than 0.5%
GALUP, July 6-21, 2021

Final result

Self-reported cigarette consumption by Americans has fallen sharply over the past two decades and remains near its lowest point on record. Fewer Americans smoke; a growing number have never smoked; and most of those who smoke consume less than one pack of cigarettes per day. Additionally, the vast majority of smokers would like to quit, and recent trends from Gallup indicate that about a quarter of American adults are former smokers who have successfully quit.

Yet smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, and it kills more than 480,000 Americans per year.

Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says vaping is less harmful than cigarettes, it is still not considered one of the safest ways to quit smoking. Of particular concern is the appeal of vaping to young Americans, given that it can still cause serious negative health effects.

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