Smoking rates in the USA range from 28.4% for adults with no high school education, 28.6% among individuals with no health insurance, to 9.1% for employees with at least a bachelor’s degree, according to a report “Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Sept. 30, 2011” issued by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). The overall adult smoking rate in America today – this figure includes both sexes, all age groups over 18 years covering the whole spectrum of society – is 19.6%.

The current smoking rate among adults is far higher than the maximum 12% goal of the Healthy People 2010. The authors added that 27.7% of working adults who earn less than the federal poverty level are regular smokers.

23.8% of Americans aged between 18 and 24 years are smokers.

The authors wrote that a significantly higher percentage of blue collar workers smoke than white collar workers. A blue collar worker usually refers to a worker who does manual work and gets paid by the hour, while a white collar worker’s job description is not considered as manual labor. Being paid by the hour for blue collar workers is less common today than it used to be.

Smoking rates vary enormously, from approximately 30% among miners to 9.7% among educated service white collar employees (teachers, librarians, etc.).

Smoking rates have dropped considerably in all socioeconomic levels in America compared to a decade or several decades ago. However, health authorities say much more needs to be done, especially by employers, to encourage their workers not to light up.

The authors gathered data from the National Health Interview Service over the period 2004 to 2010. Of the 223 adults over 18 years, the researchers estimate that 63.3% had a job during the week preceding their interview.

Below are some highlighted data from their study:

  • 24% of 18 to 24 year olds smoke
  • 10.2% of Americans aged at least 65 years smoke
  • 21.5% of men with jobs smoke (highest rate)
  • Teachers, trainers and librarians, at 8.7% have the lowest smoking rates among US adults
  • 29.7% of construction industry blue collar workers smoke
  • 9.1% of employees with at least a bachelor’s degree smoke
  • 28.4% of employees with no high school diploma smoke
  • Smoking rates vary according to geographical area – the overall rate for adults with jobs in the West is 15.9%, in the Northeast 18.7%, in the South 20.8%, and in the Midwest 21.7%.

Adverse effects of tobacco smoking-outl

Inhalation of smoke from tobacco products used by other people is known as passive smoking, environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), or secondhand smoke (SHS). The smoke permeates in the environment and is breathed in by non-smoking people in that environment.

Exposure to environmental smoke has been shown to cause disease – many say it also has an impact on mortality rates. These risks have prompted many workplaces to ban smoking, especially where employees work in a closed environment, such as offices.

A Canadian study which looked at 11,852 pregnant women who did not smoke, found that those who were exposed to environmental smoke had a higher risk of infection, giving birth to a low birth weight baby, and stillbirth. (Link to article)

A study carried out by WHO (World Health Organization) and published in The Lancet reported that 603,000 people worldwide die prematurely as a result of passive smoking – 165,000 of them children. (Link to article)

Scientists from the University of Miami reported in the British Medical Journal’s Tobacco Control that secondhand smoke was found to raise the risk of developing some degree of hearing loss. (Link to article)

Scientists from University College London found than non-smokers who are exposed to environmental tobacco smoke appear to have a greater risk of psychological distress, and future psychiatric hospitalization among healthy adults. Their study was published in Archives of General Psychiatry. (Link to article)

Tobacco denialism – for many years the tobacco industry has been trying to reject reports, many of them scientific, about the harmful effects of tobacco. The denial started many years ago when the industry said that cigarettes were not a medium for nicotine consumption – i.e. that people smoked for the pleasure, and not in order to get their nicotine fix. Attempts to deny this scientific fact stopped a long time ago as compelling evidence mounted.

Recently, the argument regarding secondhand smoke has been counteracted with accusations of nanny state, individual freedom, and unscientific bias. Most health care professionals around the world who witness the effects of environmental tobacco smoke first hand believe that this industry lobbying will gradually fall by the wayside as more and more studies demonstrate the harm of environmental tobacco smoke.

Written by Christian Nordqvist