Tobacco Use in the US

Tobacco Use in the US

Smoking in the U.S. has been on the decline since 2005, but there are still more than 46 million adults who smoke cigarettes, and tens of millions more who buy cigars, pipes and smokeless tobacco, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The government agency tracks a host of state-by-state data to capture a detailed picture of tobacco use throughout the country. The database covers everything from cigarette prices to excise taxes to lung-cancer rates for each of the 50 states. It pulls the most recent data from each state as it becomes available.

We combed through the latest CDC data for interesting and surprising patterns of tobacco use in the U.S. While some of what we found was not all that shocking (of course New York has the highest taxes!), other findings were more enlightening. Would you have guessed that Maine loves cigars more than anywhere else in the U.S.? Check out our maps for other tobacco trends.

More than a quarter of the people in West Virginia, Kentucky and Arkansas smoke cigarettes—which sounds about right when you know that West Virginia and Kentucky also lead the nation in cigarette smoking per capita. West Virginia sells 103.1 cigarette packs per person in a year, with Kentucky just a notch behind that, at 93.5. To put these numbers in perspective, cigarette consumption in New York is just 16.6 packs per capita. A Gallup poll from earlier this year found that states with smoking bans typically have lower smoking rates. Kentucky and West Virginia are among the three states (Mississippi is the third) that do not have statewide smoking bans in any of the following places: workplaces, restaurants and bars. Additionally, states with higher smoking rates are predominantly located in the Midwest and South. Interestingly, North Carolina is the largest producer of tobacco in the U.S., but the state ranks only 19th for adult cigarette use.

Wyoming has a great rodeo tradition, which is probably also one of the reasons why it has the greatest percentage of smokeless tobacco users. Copenhagen girls with samples of chew used to be regulars at the rodeo until anti-tobacco groups cracked down on the practice. About 14 percent of men in the state still use smokeless tobacco. New Jersey, on the other hand, has the lowest rate of smokeless tobacco use (just 0.1 percent of the population). Interestingly, the tax rate on snuff in Wyoming is 60 cents per ounce, versus 75 cents per ounce in New Jersey—which could also be a contributing factor.

Albert Einstein once said: "I believe that pipe smoking contributes to a somewhat calm and objective judgment in all human affairs." People in Montana clearly know what the genius is talking about. Pipe use is a fraction of cigarette and smokeless tobacco rates in the U.S., but there's been a resurgence in the past decade, and Montana is leading the pack. It is followed by Wyoming, Arkansas, Washington, New Mexico and Colorado.

The Northeast is cigar territory: In Rhode Island, the smallest state in the nation, the fondness for cigars runs so deep that some politicians are even incorporating it into their campaigns. Six-time mayor of Providence (and two-time convicted felon) Buddy Cianci is hosting a number of “Cigar Evening” campaign events. But Rhode Island is actually second to another Northeast state, Maine, where 3.1 percent of the adult population smokes cigars, versus 2.2 percent nationally.

Calculating death rates is tricky because cigarettes lead to several different types of disease, and yet those diseases aren't always caused by the cigarette use itself. The CDC looks at the death rates from those diseases and at the prevalence of smoking across the population to determine the likelihood that those deaths were, in fact, caused by cigarette use. Using that method, Kentucky is the winner (or actually the loser), with the highest rate of smoking-attributable deaths (371 per 100, 000 people). Wisconsin and North Dakota are next, both with 344 smoking-attributable deaths per 100, 000 people. Utah has the lowest rate of smoking-attributable deaths.

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