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Cigarette smoking is the most important preventable cause of premature death in the United States. Evidence also shows that chronic exposure to secondhand smoke, may increase the risk of heart disease.

  • Since 1965 smoking in the United States has declined by over 40 percent among people age 18 and older.
  • In 2001, 38.5 percent of male students in grades 9-12 and 29.5 percent of female students reported current tobacco use; 22.1 percent of males and 8.5 percent of females reported current cigar use; and 14.8 percent of males and 1.9 percent of females reported current smokeless tobacco use.
  • In 1996 about 15 million children and adolescents under age 18 were exposed to environmental tobacco smoke in the home.
  • About 80 percent of people who use tobacco begin before age 18. The most common age of initiation is 14 to 15.
  • Among Americans age 18 and older, 25.2 percent of men and 20.7 percent of women are smokers, putting them at increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
  • Use of any tobacco product in 2001 was 31.3 percent for white only, 27.7 for black or African-American only, 44.9 for American Indian and Alaska Native only, 22.9 for Hispanic or Latino and 13.6 for Asian only.
  • Smoking prevalence is higher among those with 9-11 years of education (35.4 percent) compared with those with more than 16 years of education (11.6 percent). It is highest among persons living below the poverty level (33.3 percent).
  • 82.1 percent of adults report that their workplace now has a smoke-free policy.
  • According to the World Health Organization, 1 year after quitting, the risk of CHD decreases by 50 percent. Within 15 years, the relative risk of dying from CHD for an ex-smoker approaches that of a long-time (lifetime) nonsmoker.


  • An estimated 3.2 million Americans tried their first cigarette in 1997; most of these new users (2.3million) were ages 12 - 17.
  • An estimated 1.7 million Americans began smoking cigarettes daily in 1998. More than half of these new smokers were younger than age 18. This translates to more than 4,000 new regular smokers per day, including more than 2,000 youths.
  • After increasing since the early 1990’s the number of 12-to-17 year olds initiating daily smoking dropped significantly between 1997 and 1998, from 1.1 million in 1997 to 864,000 in 1998.


  • From 1995 to 1999 an average of 442,398 Americans died each year of smoking-related illnesses. 33.5 percent of these deaths were cardiovascular-related.
  • About 35,000 nonsmokers die from CHD each year as a result of exposure to environmental tobacco smoke.
  • The risk of death from CHD increases by up to 30 percent among those exposed to environmental tobacco smoke at home or at work.


  • Smoking costs Americans over $157 billion annually in health-related economic costs.
What Can You Do?
  1. Quit smoking.
  2. Find a stop smoking class and join.
  3. Discuss medical assistance in the forms of pills, gums, and patches with you physician.
  4. Drink more fluids while you are quitting. That will help remove the toxins from your body faster.
  5. Understand that the nicotine addiction will be gone long before the physiological addiction.
  6. Know when your danger times are, and find substitutes. Try keeping suckers in your pocket, or keep stick cinnamon to inhale something. When the phone rings, take a pad to doodle while you are talking.
  7. Tell people you are quitting.
  8. Add exercise to your daily routine at a time you would normal enjoy a cigarette.
  9. Ask to sit in the nonsmoking section at restaurants.
  10. Find entertainments where smoking is prohibited. Go to a movie instead of a bar. Spend time with other nonsmokers.

Don't worry about that old tale about gaining weight when you stop smoking. The physical effect of one pack of cigarettes every day is equal to carrying an extra 80 pounds on your body. You may gain a few pounds, but if you are working the heart healthy program as a whole, you will have already begun eating better. And when you stop poisoning yourself with nicotine, food will taste better. This is a tough one, but millions of people have kicked that habit and you can too. Your life depends on it.

Success Stories - Tobacco

Robert, age 70
I grew up in North Carolina, I was raised as a Southern Baptist and one of the worse things you could do was smoke. And yet, here I was in the heart of the tobacco-growing region. Of course, like most children, I rebelled against authority and began to smoke in the 6th. Grade. I remember that because my friend Gibby and I got caught smoking in the boy’s lavatory and got into a lot of trouble. Sadly, we also became heroes to the other kids. Before long, we were all sneaking smokes.

By the time I made it to college, everyone was smoking. We had parties in our fraternity house called, "smokers." It was not only socially acceptable, but because I attended a Baptist university, to not smoke was considered "goody twoshoes." Not sure what that actually means, but it wasn’t going to be a cool guy like me.

The years pass quickly and suddenly I was looking at my 40th. Birthday. I realized I was mortal and decided to quit smoking. It was the 1970’s and the rest of the world hadn’t yet gotten health conscious. I was alone among my friends. They continued to smoke. Cold Turkey was the only method available at the time. I just made up my mind to be a "nonsmoker." It wasn’t easy. When there was stress at work, or I was out having a good time with friends, I wanted that cigarette. But, I persevered. I wasn’t going to be beaten by such a small opponent. It wasn’t easy, it was the most difficult thing I have ever done, but I did it. I added more exercise into my schedule and I found that helped reduce the stress. But, for years, I still missed a cigarette after having a good meal. But, eventually, I got over that.

When at age 63 I had a heart attack, one of the things that worked in my favor was that I was not a smoker. It was a small blood clot that caused my attack. My arteries weren’t clogged and my blood vessels were in excellent shape. My heart attack was an act of genetics, it wasn’t my fault. That made a huge difference to me.

Now, seven years later, I am in excellent health, play golf several times a week, walk two miles a day and enjoy my life. What could a cigarette give me that could be better than this? By the way, all but one of my early smoking buddies are now dead. If their hearts didn’t kill them, their lungs did. I’m still here.

Melissa, 38
I started smoking in high school, when my parents found out they stopped giving me an allowance because they didn’t want their money buying cigarettes for me. That didn't stop me; I got a job and worked 20 hours a week to prove I didn’t need their help. Stupid, stupid kid!

I continued to smoke through college, spending money I could have used for other things. I didn’t like that, but I couldn’t stop. I married and then got pregnant. I had to quit smoking during each of my 4 pregnancies. Clearly, I understood the health issues for my children, but the first thing I asked for in the recovery room after delivery was a cigarette. Stupid, stupid grownup!

I had stopped smoking, but I had always known it was just for 9 months. Then I watched my grandfather die of lung cancer. I heard him say that the worst part of having the disease was knowing that he had caused it himself. He quit smoking after he had a lung removed, but it was too late. He died. But, I still smoked. My smoking grandmother told me that grandpa had stopped the easy way. What she meant was that after they removed his lung, he couldn’t smoke anymore. She continued to smoke. She died a few years later of kidney failure brought on by high blood pressure, made worse by smoking. And still I smoked. Stupid, stupid, stupid!

When the price of a cartoon of cigarettes hit $25.00 I made up my mind it was time to quit. We all measure costs in a different way, don’t we? Clearly, the cost my grandparents had paid was huge, but I didn’t see it that way. But, with 4 children to support, I simply couldn’t afford to smoke any longer. I used a nicotine patch and a great deal of will power and I finally managed to quit. It was a battle, but I won and my children won because now they don’t have to inhale my second hand smoke. And they will have a mother to share their children and hopefully their grandchildren with. I want to be there and now I truly believe I will be. Aren’t you proud of me, I am proud of me.