Which States Have The Worst Smoker's Breath?

In spite of all the ads with coroners squeezing fat out of a smoker’s diseased heart and all the taxes levied on tobacco products, the percentage of adults who smoke on a regular basis has held steady at just over 20% for the last five years, says a new report from the Centers for Disease Control. But that percentage can vary wildly depending on location, education, race and gender.

The map included here shows the percentage of adult smokers in each state (though it somehow has included Long Island with New Jersey?). As you can see, only two states — California and Utah — were below 13%, with Utah being home to the fewest smokers (9.8%).

On the other end of the spectrum, six states — Kentucky, Indiana, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Missouri — represented the highest density of regular smokers. Kentucky and West Virginia tied for title of smokiest state with 25.6% of residents lighting up on a regular basis.

In terms of sex, men outsmoked women (23.5% vs. 17.9%) in every breakdown with one exception — people with graduate degrees. For some reason, 6.3% of women with graduate degrees smoke while only 4.9% of men partake in tobacco. That’s food for thought.

Speaking of education, people with less schooling tended to smoke more. Perhaps it’s a statistical anomaly, but 49.1% of those with a GED are smokers, the highest percentage of any category listed by the CDC. Meanwhile the percentage of smokers drops precipitously between high school graduates (25.1%) and those with undergraduate degrees (11.1%).

Those identifying themselves as white ranked third-highest (22.1%) behind multiracial (29.5%) and American Indian (23.2%). Asians represented the smallest percentage of smokers, with only 12%.

Also of interest is the data related to age. Between the ages of 18-64, there is no discernible drop-off in the percentage of people smoking. However, after age 64, that number plunges from above 21% to 9.5%. We’re guessing that the decrease isn’t just because smokers decide to quit lighting up when they retire.

What do you think of the CDC’s numbers? Do you think the data will be the same five years from now or do you expect more/less people to be smoking?

Vital Signs: Current Cigarette Smoking Among Adults Aged ≥18 Years — United States, 2009 [CDC]