The tobacco epidemic in the United States

Am J Prev Med. 2007 Dec;33(6 Suppl):S318-26. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2007.09.008.


Tobacco use, primarily in the form of cigarettes and exposure to tobacco smoke pollution, has caused the premature deaths of more than 14 million Americans since 1964. The major diseases caused by tobacco and tobacco smoke include lung cancer, other cancers, coronary heart disease, other cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory diseases, pregnancy complications, and respiratory diseases in children. Per capita consumption of various tobacco products has declined substantially since 1950, with current consumption at approximately 3.7 pounds per capita. Whereas approximately two in five adults smoked cigarettes in 1965, approximately one in five did so in 2005. Several factors can influence initiation and cessation, including product factors (e.g., ventilation holes, additives, and flavorings); host factors (intention to use, level of dependence); tobacco company activities (e.g., marketing strategies, efforts to undermine public health activities); and environmental factors (e.g., peer and parental smoking, smoke-free air laws and policies). Efforts to prevent initiation, promote quitting, and protect nonsmokers should reduce exposure to pro-tobacco marketing and increase (1) the price of tobacco products, (2) protection from tobacco smoke pollution, (3) effective mass media strategies, (4) provision of effective cessation support, (5) effective regulation, and (6) litigation that holds the industry responsible for its misdeeds. Adequate implementation of effective tobacco-control strategies and useful scientific advances will help to ensure that per capita consumption decreases to the lowest level possible. The economic benefits of tobacco in our society are replaceable and they pale in comparison to the extent of human life lost.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Health Behavior
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Smoking / epidemiology*
  • Smoking / history
  • Smoking Cessation / methods
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / adverse effects*
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / epidemiology*
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution