Health Status > Health Behaviors

Cigarette smoking

According to the U.S. Surgeon General, smoking damages every organ in the human body. Cigarette smoke contains toxic ingredients that prevent red blood cells from carrying a full load of oxygen, impair genes that control the growth of cells, and bind to the airways of smokers. This contributes to numerous chronic illnesses, including several types of cancers, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cardiovascular disease, reduced bone density and fertility, and premature death.1 In 2004, almost 60 million people in the United States aged 12 and older smoked cigarettes within the past month. Among women, the rate of smoking in the past month was 22.3 percent, compared to 27.7 percent among men. This rate has declined over the past several decades among both sexes. In 1985, the rate among males was 43.4 percent, and among females it was 34.5 percent.

Quitting smoking has major and immediate health benefits. In 2004, over 40 percent of smokers reported trying to quit at least once in the past year. Females were slightly more likely than males to attempt to quit (43.9 versus 42.0 percent). Among both males and females, non-Hispanic Blacks were the most likely to try to quit smoking (46.7 and 54.0 percent, respectively).

1 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The health consequences of smoking: a report of the Surgeon General. 2004.

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Women's Health USA 2006 is not copyrighted. Readers are free to duplicate and use all or part of the information contained on this page. Suggested Citation: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Women's Health USA 2006. Rockville, Maryland: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2006.