This article's lead section may be too short to adequately summarize the key points. Please consider expanding the lead to provide an accessible overview of all important aspects of the article. (January 2022)

Tobacco has a long cultural, economic, and social impact on the United States. Tobacco cultivation in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1610 lead to the expansion of British colonialism in the Southern United States.[1] As the demand for Tobacco grew in Europe, further colonization in British America and Tobacco production saw a parallel increase.[2] Tobacco use became normalized in American society and was heavily consumed before and after American independence.

Tobacco distribution is measured in the United States using the term, "tobacco outlet density."[3] An estimated 34.3 million people, or 14% of all adults (aged 18 years or older), in the United States smoked cigarettes in 2015. By state, in 2015, smoking prevalence ranged from between 9.1% and 12.8% in Utah to between 23.7% and 27.4% in West Virginia. By region, in 2015, smoking prevalence was highest in the Midwest (18.7%) and South (15.3%) and lowest in the West (12.4%). Men tend to smoke more than women. In 2015, 16.7% of men smoked compared to 13.6% of women.[4] In 2018, 13.7% of U.S. adults were smokers.[5]

Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, accounting for approximately 443,000 deaths, or 1 of every 5 deaths, in the United States each year.[6] Cigarette smoking alone has cost the United States $96 billion in direct medical expenses and $97 billion in lost productivity per year or an average of $4,260 per adult smoker.

In 1964 the Surgeon General of the United States published the Smoking and Health report, which identified smoking as the cause of many health problems.[7] The report greatly changed the public perception of tobacco use from being safe to hazardous.[7]

History of commercial tobacco

Main articles: Tobacco in the American colonies and History of commercial tobacco in the United States

Commercial tobacco production dates back to the 17th century when the first commercial crop was planted. The industry originated in the production of tobacco for pipes and snuff. Different war efforts in the world created a shift in demand and production of tobacco in the world and the American colonies. With the advent of the American Revolution trade with the colonies was interrupted which shifted trade to other countries in the world. During this shift there was an increase in demand for tobacco in the United States, where the demand for tobacco in the form of cigars and chewing tobacco increased. Other wars, such as the War of 1812 would introduce the Andalusian cigarette to the rest of Europe. After 1880 production of tobacco in America increasingly focused on the manufactured cigarette.

Current smoking among adults in 2016 (nation)

According to the research, for every 100 U.S adults, age 18 or older, more than 15 smoked cigarettes in 2016. In other words, there are about 37.8 million cases of cigarette smokers in the United States. More than 16 million Americans are living with a smoking-related disease. However, the number of smokers in 2016 has decreased to 15.5% which is a 5.4% difference from 2005. This shows an increase in the number of smokers who have quit. Men smoke at a higher rate than women. At every 100 adults, men nearly got 4 more cases than women.[8]

Overall, it is estimated that 5.66 million adults in the US population reported current vaping 2.3%. From those users in the population, more than 2.21 million were current cigarette smokers (39.1%), more than 2.14 million were former smokers (37.9%), and more than 1.30 million were never smokers (23.1%).[9]

Statistics in 2018 estimated that about 14.9% of adults (18 and over) had ever used e-cigarettes, and around 3.2% of all adults in the United States were current e-cigarette users. These same stats also noted that 34 million U.S. adults were current smokers, with E-cigarette usage being highest among current smokers and former smokers who are attempting or have recently quit cigarettes.[10]

The 2010s within the United States saw both the advent and uptick in the prevalence of vaping among American youths. Electronic cigarettes are one of the most up-and-coming forms of nicotine delivery for U.S. consumers. The first commercial e-cigarette hit the markets in 2006.[11] Reports in 2018 estimated that youth vaping is present among 27.5% of the youth population. This is a stark comparison to the 5.5% of reported youths within the United States who smoke combustible nicotine such as cigarettes.[12]

According to government survey data released in April 2023, smoking rates in the United States fell to their lowest point in 2022, with 1 in 9 adults reporting being a smoker. In 2022, the percentage of adult smokers dropped from 12.5 percent in 2020 and 2021 to about 11 percent. According to survey data, e-cigarette use increased to nearly 6 percent in 2022 from about 4.5 percent the previous year. Only about 2 percent of high school students smoked traditional cigarettes in 2022, but about 14 percent used e-cigarettes, according to other CDC data.[13]

The prevalence of smoking by age[14]
18 – 24 years old 8.0%
25 – 44 years old 16.7%
45 – 64 years old 17.0%
65 and older 8.2%
Age % of population who vape[12]
13 year olds 6%
14 year olds 10%
15 year olds 15%
16 year olds 22%
17 year olds 24%
18 year olds 25%
The prevalence of smoking by educational level[14]
Fewer years of education (no diploma) 24.1%
GED certificate 35.3%
High school diploma 19.6%
Some college (no degree) 17.7%
Associate degree 14.0%
Undergraduate degree 6.9%
Graduate degree 4.0%
The prevalence of smoking by race/ethnicity[14]                
Non-Hispanic American Indians/Alaska Natives 20.9%
Non-Hispanic Other races 19.7%
Non-Hispanic Blacks 14.9%
Non-Hispanic Whites 15.5%
Hispanics 8.8%
Non-Hispanic Asian 7.2%


See also: List of smoking bans in the United States and Cigarette taxes in the United States

On February 4, 2009, the Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009 was signed into law, which raised the federal tax rate for cigarettes on April 1, 2009 from $0.39 per pack to $1.01 per pack.[15][16]

Lobbying and organizations

There has been intensive lobbying in the US to portray smoking as a harmless activity. The Insider is a 1999 feature film about the production of a news segment exposing Big Tobacco. The raising influence Social Media has on new generations of teens has provided new platforms for anti-smoking organizations. A prime example is TruthOrange sponsoring YouTube's content creators to include their ads. As well as using YouTube's ads algorithm to provide their target audience, teens, a thirty-second ad.

Lobbyists include:


Tobacco plants growing; in the United States

443,000 Americans die of smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke each year. For every smoking-related death, another 20 people suffer with a smoking-related disease. (2011)[17]

California's adult smoking rate has dropped nearly 50% since the state began the nation's longest-running tobacco control program in 1988. California saved $86 billion in health care costs by spending $1.8 billion on tobacco control, a 50:1 return on investment over its first 15 years of funding its tobacco control program.[17]

Companies and products

Some of the notable tobacco companies in the US are:

Marketing to the black community

Historian Keith Wailoo argues the cigarette industry targeted a new market in the black audience starting in the 1960s. It took advantage of several converging trends. First was the increased national attention on the dangers of lung cancer. Cigarette companies took the initiative in fighting back. they developed menthol-flavored brands like Kool, which seemed to be more soothing to the throat, and advertised these as good for your health. A second trend was the Federal ban on tobacco advertising on radio and television. There was no ban on advertising in the print media, so the industry responded by large-scale advertising in Black newspapers and magazines. They erected billboards in inner-city neighborhoods. The third trend was the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Big Tobacco responded by investing heavily in the Civil Rights Movement, winning the gratitude of many national and local leaders. Menthol-flavored cigarette brands systematically sponsored local events in the black community, and subsidized major black organizations especially the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People). They also subsidized many churches and schools. The marketing initiative was a success as the rate of smoking in the black community grew, while it declined among whites. Furthermore, three of four black smokers purchased menthol cigarettes.[18]


An estimated half a million children worked in the fields of America picking food as of 2012, although the precise number working in tobacco fields is unknown. In eastern North Carolina, children have been interviewed as young as fourteen who worked harvesting tobacco, and recent news reports describe children as young as nine and ten doing such work. Federal law provides no minimum age for work on small farms with parental permission, and children ages twelve and up may work for hire on any size farm for unlimited periods outside school hours. According to Human Rights Watch, farm-work is the most hazardous occupation open to children.[19][20]

See also


  1. ^ "Tobacco | Historic Jamestowne". Retrieved 2024-03-19.
  2. ^ Land, Jeremy (2023-07-06), "Inter-colonial Trade", Colonial Ports, Global Trade, and the Roots of the American Revolution (1700 — 1776), BRILL, pp. 100–119, ISBN 978-90-04-54269-3, retrieved 2024-03-19
  3. ^ Yu, D; Peterson, N. A; Sheffer, M. A; Reid, R. J; Schnieder, J. E (2010). "Tobacco outlet density and demographics: Analysing the relationships with a spatial regression approach". Public Health. 124 (7): 412–6. doi:10.1016/j.puhe.2010.03.024. PMID 20541232.
  4. ^ "Smoking and Tobacco Use Fact Sheet". Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 1 December 2015. Retrieved 24 September 2017.
  5. ^ "Current Cigarette Smoking Among Adults in the United States". 15 December 2020.
  6. ^ Adult Cigarette Smoking in the United States: Current Estimate Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  7. ^ a b Hughes, Dominic (March 6, 2012). "Smoking and health 50 years on from landmark report". BBC. Archived from the original on 24 September 2022.
  8. ^ Health, CDC's Office on Smoking and (2018-09-24). "CDC - Fact Sheet - Adult Cigarette Smoking in the United States - Smoking & Tobacco Use". Smoking and Tobacco Use. Retrieved 2018-12-01.
  9. ^ Mayer, Margaret; Reyes-Guzman, Carolyn; Grana, Rachel; Choi, Kelvin; Freedman, Neal D. (2020-10-13). "Demographic Characteristics, Cigarette Smoking, and e-Cigarette Use Among US Adults". JAMA Network Open. 3 (10): e2020694. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.20694. ISSN 2574-3805. PMC 8094416. PMID 33048127.
  10. ^ "Products - Data Briefs - Number 365 - April 2020". 2020-04-28. Retrieved 2022-04-26.
  11. ^ "The Evolution and Impact of Electronic Cigarettes". National Institute of Justice. Retrieved 2022-04-26.
  12. ^ a b Quintero, Nandeeni Patel and Diana (2019-11-22). "The youth vaping epidemic: Addressing the rise of e-cigarettes in schools". Brookings. Retrieved 2022-04-26.
  13. ^ Stobbe, Mike (April 28, 2023). "Cigarette smoking rate hits new all-time low for US adults while E-cig rate rises". USA Today.
  14. ^ a b c "Current Cigarette Smoking Among Adults in the United States". 15 December 2020.
  15. ^ Frank, Pallone (4 February 2009). "H.R.2 - 111th Congress (2009-2010): Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009".
  16. ^ American Lung Association Celebrates Public Health Victory
  17. ^ a b Adult Smoking in the US CDC September 2011
  18. ^ Keith Wailoo, Pushing Cool: Big Tobacco, Racial Marketing, and the Untold Story of the Menthol Cigarette (2021) excerpt
  19. ^ The Hidden Victims of Tobacco HRW September 5, 2012
  20. ^ Children in the Fields: North Carolina Tobacco Farms NBC August 9, 2012

Further reading

Primary sources