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Smoking and Vaping Remain Steady and Low in U.S.

Smoking and Vaping Remain Steady and Low in U.S.

Story Highlights

  • 16% say they have smoked any cigarettes in past week, near record-low 15%
  • 6% say they have vaped in past week, including 17% of 18- to 29-year-olds
  • 72% of smokers would like to give up smoking

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The percentage of Americans who smoke cigarettes remains steady near its lowest point. The 16% of U.S. adults who currently say they have smoked any cigarettes in the past week is statistically the same as the 15% record low in 2019.

Line graph. Percentage of Americans who say they have smoked any cigarettes in the past week, trend since 1944. Currently, in 2021, 16% of U.S. adults say they have smoked cigarettes in the past week. The previous reading, in 2019, was 15%, the lowest on record. The reading has not been over 19% since 2015.

Gallup has tracked Americans' cigarette use since 1944, including annual measures in most years since 1985. Between 1944 and 1974, at least 40% of U.S. adults said they had smoked any cigarettes within the past week, including a high of 45% in 1954. However, by the late 1970s, television smoking ads had been banned and antismoking campaigns and nonsmokers' rights groups became more prevalent, likely contributing to a decline in smoking.

By 1977, Americans' self-reports of smoking had fallen below 40%, and they remained there through 1988. After that, smoking rates dropped to between 20% and 29% for more than two decades. During this period, there was increased government regulation of the "Big Tobacco" companies and many lawsuits against them. Since 2015, the U.S. smoking rate has been consistently below 20%.

In addition to the 16% of U.S. adults who currently smoke cigarettes, another 23% say they previously smoked cigarettes on a regular basis. The combined 39% of Americans who have ever regularly smoked cigarettes is down from 53% in 1994, the first year Gallup measured prior smoking behavior.

Just as the percentage of Americans who smoke has fallen over the past three decades, so too have the number of cigarettes that U.S. smokers say they smoke each day. Since 1999, majorities of smokers have reported they smoke less than one pack a day. Currently, 67% say they smoke less than one pack of cigarettes per day. This is lower than the last reading, 74%, in 2019, which tied the record high.

Line graph. Americans' self-reported daily use of cigarettes, trend since 1944. Currently, 67% of U.S. adults who have smoked cigarettes in the past week say they smoke less than one pack of cigarettes, 25% smoke one pack and 6% smoke more than one pack. The percentage who say they smoke less than one pack per day has been rising since the late 1990s.

Another Gallup trend among smokers finds that broad majorities (ranging from 58% to 82%) since 1977 have said they would like to give up smoking. Currently, 72% of U.S. adults who smoke want to kick the habit.

While there are numerous smoking cessation methods, some people have substituted vaping, which is the use of e-cigarettes, for conventional cigarettes. This method of quitting smoking is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Gallup previously measured Americans' use of e-cigarettes in 2019. The latest reading finds 6% of U.S. adults saying they have vaped in the past week, which is roughly the same as the 8% who said so in 2019.

Greatest Differences in Smoking, Vaping Behaviors by Age, Income, Education

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

Vaping is most popular with young adults aged 18-29, while conventional smoking is most popular with those aged 30-64. 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 vape.

Americans' Smoking Behavior, by Subgroup
% Who have smoked in the past week
Smoked any cigarettes Smoked e-cigarettes (vaped)
% %
U.S. adults 16 6
Male 17 7
Female 15 5
Age group
18-29 14 17
30-49 20 5
50-64 19 2
65+ 10 *
Annual household income
Less than $40,000 28 10
$40,000-$99,999 12 4
$100,000 or more 8 3
High school or less 28 10
Some college 13 5
College graduate 6 4
Postgraduate 5 1
* Less than 0.5%
GALLUP, July 6-21, 2021

Bottom Line

Americans' self-reported use of cigarettes has fallen sharply over the past two decades and remains near its lowest point on record. Fewer Americans smoke; an increasing number have never smoked; and most of those who do smoke use less than one pack of cigarettes a day. Furthermore, the broad majority of smokers would like to quit smoking, and recent Gallup trends indicate that about one-quarter of U.S. adults are former smokers who have successfully quit.

Still, smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., and it kills more than 480,000 Americans per year.

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

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