skip to main content

Smaller Majority of Heavy Smokers Say They Want to Quit

Smaller Majority of Heavy Smokers Say They Want to Quit
by Justin McCarthy

Story Highlights

  • 68% of those who smoke more than a pack daily want to quit
  • Heavy smokers less likely to see harm in their habit
  • Also less likely to see harmful effects from secondhand smoking

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A majority of all U.S. cigarette smokers would like to quit, but heavier smokers are less likely to say this than lighter smokers. Sixty-eight percent of smokers who smoke more than a pack of cigarettes a day say they would like to quit, compared with 73% of those who smoke one pack a day and 78% who smoke less than a pack.

U.S. Smokers' Desire to Quit, by Daily Tobacco Consumption

These data, collected in Gallup's annual Consumption Habits polls from 2001 to 2017, may reflect the power of a deeper nicotine addiction or a resignation about their inability to quit among those who smoke the most. Though a solid majority of the heaviest smokers say they want to quit, nearly a third are OK with continuing to smoke.

Most smokers in 2017 consume less than a pack daily (64%), but about one in four smoke a pack (27%). Just 8% report they smoke more than a pack each day.

Over the past several decades, local, state and federal taxes have made smoking an increasingly expensive habit in the U.S. Laws prohibiting smoking in various public places have made it more inconvenient as well. Most smokers feel discriminated against at least occasionally because of their habit. But perhaps underscoring the addictive quality of nicotine, significant percentages of smokers who use varying levels of tobacco say they do not desire to quit.

Heavier Smokers Less Likely to Say the Habit Is "Very Harmful"

The vast majority of Americans believe smoking is "very harmful" to those who smoke cigarettes. However, smokers themselves, regardless of how frequently they smoke, are less likely to hold this view. Heavier smokers are even less likely than lighter smokers to say smoking is very harmful to one's health.

Among those who smoke more than a pack a day, about half (51%) say the habit is very harmful, compared with 56% who smoke one pack a day and 65% who consume less than a pack daily.

U.S. Smokers' Views of Harmfulness of Smoking, by Daily Tobacco Consumption
In general, how harmful do you feel smoking is to adults who smoke -- very harmful, somewhat harmful, not too harmful or not at all harmful?
Less than one pack One pack More than one pack
% % %
Very harmful 65 56 51
Somewhat harmful 29 30 35
Not too harmful 3 7 8
Not at all harmful 2 5 2
Depends (vol.) 1 1 2
(vol.) = Volunteered response
GALLUP, 2001-2017

Heaviest Smokers Less Likely to See Harm in Secondhand Smoking

When it comes to how their habit affects others, heavier smokers are also less likely to acknowledge the negative effects of secondhand smoke.

Those who smoke less than a pack daily (40%) are twice as likely as those who smoke more than a pack (20%) to say secondhand smoking is very harmful to adults. The heaviest smokers are more likely to describe secondhand smoke as "somewhat harmful." Nearly four in 10 heavy smokers do not perceive secondhand smoke as being overly harmful.

U.S. Smokers' Views of Harmfulness of Secondhand Smoking, by Daily Tobacco Consumption
In general, how harmful do you feel secondhand smoke is to adults -- very harmful, somewhat harmful, not too harmful or not at all harmful?
Less than one pack One pack More than one pack
% % %
Very harmful 40 23 20
Somewhat harmful 39 45 38
Not too harmful 14 18 22
Not at all harmful 5 11 16
Depends (vol.) 1 1 2
(vol.) = Volunteered response
GALLUP, 2001-2017

Bottom Line

Most smokers want to quit. They feel at least occasionally discriminated against for their habit, and a majority of Americans continue to support banning smoking in public places altogether.

But larger efforts to combat smoking could be hindered by heavy smokers' subdued enthusiasm for quitting. In addition to being more likely to say they would not like to quit, heavy smokers are less likely to perceive that their habit damages their own health and the health of others.

Subscribe to our online platform to access nearly a century of data.
Gallup Analytics lets you search, compare and export data to enhance your research.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on combined telephone interviews from Gallup's annual Consumption Habits survey, conducted each July from 2001 to 2017. The combined sample is based on interviews with 3,368 randomly selected U.S. adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, who smoke cigarettes.

For results based on the total sample of 315 adults who smoke more than a pack of cigarettes a day, the margin of sampling error is ±7 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

For results based on the total sample of 992 adults who smoke a pack of cigarettes a day, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

For results based on the total sample of 1,992 adults who smoke less than a pack of cigarettes a day, the margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

Gallup


Gallup http://news.gallup.com/poll/214925/smaller-majority-heavy-smokers-say-quit.aspx
Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030