Smoking Habits Stable; Most Would Like to Quit

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Most former smokers able to quit on first or second attempt

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Gallup's annual update on Americans' smoking habits shows little change compared with recent years -- roughly one in four adult Americans report smoking cigarettes, and the majority of smokers smoke less than a pack a day. The vast majority of smokers would like to give up smoking but also consider themselves addicted to cigarettes. The poll finds that most smokers have made serious attempts to quit in the past; most former smokers made one or two serious attempts before they quit. A non-trivial number of former smokers made a high number of attempts to stop smoking before finally succeeding.

Each year in its July poll on Americans' consumption habits, Gallup measures smoking behavior among the U.S. adult population. This year's poll was conducted July 6-9.

Smoking Habits

The poll shows that 25% of Americans aged 18 and older say they smoked cigarettes in the past week -- exactly the same as the average rate of smoking recorded since 2000. In fact, the extent of cigarette smoking has not changed dramatically since the late 1980s, when more than 3 in 10 smoked. From 1944 through 1974, Gallup measured smoking rates at 40% or higher.

A majority of smokers, 55%, say they smoke less than a pack of cigarettes per day. Thirty-six percent smoke a pack a day -- 20 cigarettes -- while 8% smoke more than one pack per day. The average smoker puffs on 14 cigarettes each day.

The amount of cigarettes smoked per day has declined over time according to Gallup's historical measurements. From 1944 through 1997 (with one exception in a 1990 measurement), a majority of U.S. smokers smoked a pack per day or more.

In addition to the 25% of Americans who currently smoke, another 26% say they used to smoke in the past. That leaves 49% of Americans who have never smoked.

One interesting difference in this regard is that 6 in 10 college graduates report never having smoked. This compares with roughly half of those with some college, and just 38% with a high school education or less. Americans with less formal education are also more likely to report being a current smoker.

Kicking the Habit

Seventy-five percent of smokers say they would like to give up smoking, while just 22% say they would not. At least 6 in 10 smokers have said they would like to quit each time Gallup has asked this question since 1977.

But quitting may not be so easy given that 75% of Americans who smoke consider themselves addicted to cigarettes, while 24% say they are not.

There is not a one-to-one relationship between the desire to quit and considering oneself addicted. Most smokers who would like to quit consider themselves addicted, but not all of them do. Eighty percent of those who consider themselves addicted would prefer to give up smoking, but 18% would not. A majority of those who do not consider themselves addicted, 60%, would still like to give up smoking, but 36% would not.

The poll asked smokers how many times they have "made serious attempts to quit smoking." Just 16% say they have never tried to quit, while 37% have tried once or twice, 34% have tried three to five times, and 14% have tried more than five times. The average smoker has made 4.1 quit attempts.

The same question was asked of former smokers, who report an average of 6.1 quit attempts. The majority, 55%, made one or two serious attempts to quit, while 27% made three to five attempts, and 16% made more than five attempts.

A direct comparison between the quitting attempts of smokers and former smokers suggests that many former smokers may have had an easier time kicking the habit, while others had a harder time before they finally did so. More former smokers (55%) than current smokers (37%, and 44% of current smokers who have attempted to quit) made just one or two serious attempts to quit. But there are also more former smokers than current smokers who have made 10 or more attempts to quit, which explains the larger mean number of attempts among former smokers than current smokers.

Attempts to Quit Smoking, Former Smokers vs. Current Smokers

Former
smokers

Current
smokers

Current smokers
who have tried
to quit

%

%

%

Never

--

16

--

1-2 times

55

37

44

3-5 times

27

34

40

6-10 times

8

9

10

More than 10 times

8

5

6

Average number of times

6.1

4.1

4.8

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,007 adults, aged 18 years and older, conducted July 6-9, 2006. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

For results based on the sample of 195 current smokers, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±8 percentage points.

For results based on the sample of 812 non-smokers, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

For results based on the sample of 285 former smokers, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±6 percentage points.

9. Have you, yourself, smoked any cigarettes in the past week?

Yes

No

%

%

2006 Jul 6-9

25

75

2005 Nov 7-10

25

75

2005 Jul 7-10

25

75

2004 Nov 7-10

22

78

2004 Jul 8-11

25

75

2003 Nov 3-5

26

74

2003 Jul 7-9

25

75

2002 Jul 9-11

24

76

2001 Jul 19-22

28

72

2000 Nov 13-15

25

75

1999 Sep 23-26

23

77

1998 Jun 22-23

28

72

1997 Sep 25-28

26

74

1997 Jun 26-29

26

74

1997 Jun 23-24

26

74

1997 May 6-7

25

75

1997 Mar 24-26

27

73

1996 May 9-12

27

73

1994 Jul 15-17

27

73

1994 Mar 11-13

27

73

1991 Nov 7-10

28

72

1990 Jul 6-8

27

73

1989 May 15-18

27

73

1989 Apr 4-9

29

71

1988 Jul 1-7

32

68

1987 Mar 14-18

30

70

1986 Jun 9-16

31

69

1985 Jun 7-10

35

65

1983

38

62

1981 Jun 26-29

35

65

1978 Jan 20-23

36

64

1977 Aug 19-22

38

62

1974 May 10-13

40

60

1972 Apr 21-24

43

57

1971 May 14-17

42

58

1969 Jul 24-29

40

60

1957 Jun

42

58

1954 Jun

45

55

1949 Oct

44

56

1944 Nov

41

59

10. About how many cigarettes do you smoke each day?

BASED ON 195 SMOKERS

Less than
one pack

One
pack

More than
one pack

No
answer

Mean

Median

%

%

%

%

2006 Jul 6-9

55

36

8

1

14

10

2005 Jul 7-10

58

31

9

2

14

10

2004 Jul 8-11

52

33

14

1

16

15

2003 Jul 7-9

53

35

10

2

15

12

2002 Jul 9-11

54

29

17

*

16

10

2001 Jul 19-22

59

29

11

*

15

10

2000 Nov 13-15

62

29

9

0

15

10

1999 Sep 23-26

55

35

9

1

14

--

1997 Jun 26-29

48

32

19

1

--

20

1997 Jun 23-24

48

30

21

1

19

20

1996 May 9-12

43

38

16

3

17

20

1994 Mar 11-13

44

38

18

0

--

20

1991 Nov 7-10

48

34

17

1

--

20

1990 Jul 5-8

51

32

14

3

--

--

1989 May 15-18

39

39

20

2

--

20

1988 Jul 1-7

40

38

20

2

--

20

1987 Mar 14-18

48

32

18

2

--

20

1986 Jun 9-16

43

33

22

2

--

20

1981 Jan 26-29

38

37

24

1

--

20

1978 Jan 20-23

34

35

30

1

--

20

1977 Aug 19-22

41

31

27

1

--

20

1957 Jun

44

41

15

*

--

20

1954 Jun

39

35

26

--

--

20

1949 Oct

42

38

16

4

--

20

1944 Nov

43

33

22

2

--

20

11. All things considered, would you like to give up smoking, or not?

BASED ON 195 SMOKERS

Yes

No

No
opinion

%

%

%

2006 Jul 6-9

75

22

3

2005 Jul 7-10

76

22

2

2004 Jul 8-11

82

17

1

2003 Jul 7-9

82

17

1

2002 Jul 9-11

79

18

3

2000 Nov 13-15

82

16

2

1999 Sep 23-26

76

23

1

1997 Jun 26-29

74

24

2

1997 Jun 23-24

64

34

2

1996 May 9-12

73

26

1

1994 Mar 11-13

70

28

2

1991 Nov 7-10

76

22

2

1990 Jul 6-8

74

24

2

1989 May 15-18

63

33

4

1988 Jul 1-7

68

27

5

1987 Mar 14-18

77

20

3

1986 Jun 9-16

75

22

3

1981 Jun 26-29

66

30

4

1977 Aug 19-22

66

29

5

12. Do you consider yourself addicted to cigarettes or not?

BASED ON 195 SMOKERS

Yes,
addicted

No,
not

No
opinion

%

%

%

2006 Jul 6-9

75

24

*

2005 Jul 7-10

74

25

1

2004 Jul 8-11

78

21

1

2003 Jul 7-9

72

28

*

2000 Nov 13-15

74

26

--

1999 Sep 23-26

72

28

*

1997 Jun 26-29

73

27

*

1997 Jun 23-24

68

31

1

1996

69

31

--

1991

70

29

1

1990

61

39

*

* = Less than 0.5%

13. How many different times in your life, if any, have you made serious attempts to quit smoking? [OPEN-ENDED]

BASED ON 195 SMOKERS

Never

Once
or twice

3-10
times

More than
10 times

No
answer

Mean

Median

2006 Jul 6-9

16%

37

42

5

1

4.1

2

15. Did you, yourself, ever smoke cigarettes on a regular basis?

BASED ON 812 NON-SMOKERS

Yes

No

No
answer

%

%

%

2006 Jul 6-9

34

66

--

2005 Jul 7-10

30

70

*

2004 Jul 8-11

29

71

--

2003 Jul 7-9

35

65

*

2002 Jul 9-11

34

66

*

1997 Jun 26-29

32

68

--

1996 May 9-12

31

68

1

1994 Mar 11-13

36

64

--

1990 Jul 6-8

35

65

--

* = Less than 0.5%

16. How many different times in your life did you make serious attempts to quit smoking? [OPEN-ENDED]

BASED ON 285 FORMER SMOKERS

Once
or twice

3-10
times

More than
10 times

No
answer

Mean

Median

2006 Jul 6-9

55%

33

8

4

6.1

2

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