10 Things You Didn't Know About the History of Smoking


There are now more former smokers in the U.S. than current smokers.

It may be a hard habit to kick, but for a variety of reasons, fewer Americans are smoking today than were lighting up 14 years ago.
It may be a hard habit to kick, but for a variety of reasons, fewer Americans are smoking today than were lighting up 14 years ago.

According to a survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fewer than 20 percent of adults in America smoked in 2010. This number is down from nearly 25 percent in 1997. More than 25 percent of men identified themselves as former smokers, and more than 18 percent of women.

In the 1950s, 45 percent of Americans smoked. That rate continued at about 40 percent through the 1970s, according to the Gallup Poll.

How that happened will be the subject of doctoral dissertations for many years to come. There is some agreement, in these discussions, that hard facts about medical dangers don't make people quit. The hard facts were around for several decades, and indeed several centuries, before the percentage of smokers started to drift downward.

So what made people decide to quit? Was it the cost? It's no accident that smoking dropped off during the same era that states started employing punitive cigarette taxes. But any dedicated smoker will tell you that it really doesn't matter how much it costs.

So was it the ban in restaurants? The harsh stares? It's probably all of these things, and every smoker can recall some kind of formative incident that changed his point of view. It may just go back to that thing that got us started in the first place: It's all the rage.

For more great information, check out the links below.

Related Articles


  • Apperson, G.L. "The Social History of Smoking." Echo Library. 2006.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Current Smoking." National Health Interview Survey. March 2011. (June 7, 2011) http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhis/earlyrelease/201103_08.pdf
  • Gately, Iain. "Tobacco." Grove Press. 2003.
  • Gilman, Sander L. and Xun Zhou. "Smoke: A Global History of Smoking." Reaktion Books. 2004.
  • Goodman, Jordan. "Tobacco in History: The Cultures of Dependence." Psychology Press. 1994.
  • Oils and Plants. "Folk Medicine 2 - African Tribal Medicine." (June 5, 2011) http://www.oilsandplants.com/folkmedicine2.htm
  • Saad, Lydia. "U.S. Smoking Rate Still Coming Down." Gallup. July 24, 2008. (June 7, 2011) http://www.gallup.com/poll/109048/US-Smoking-Rate-Still-Coming-Down.aspx
  • U.S. National Park Service. "Historic Jamestowne: Tobacco: Colonial Cultivation Methods." (June 5, 2011) http://www.nps.gov/jame/historyculture/tobacco-colonial-cultivation-methods.htm
  • Wilbert, Johannes. "Tobacco and Shamanism in South America." (June 5, 2011) http://www.hoboes.com/Politics/Prohibition/Notes/Shamanism/


FDA Takes Step Toward Non-addictive Cigarettes

FDA Takes Step Toward Non-addictive Cigarettes

The FDA recently announced plans to explore nicotine reduction in cigarettes to non-addictive levels. HowStuffWorks takes a look at the possibility.