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Smoking exacts a terrible toll in lives and health and carries a severe economic price tag. The prevalence of smoking in Virginia is close to the national average.

Why is This Important?

Smoking Rates by State.  See text for explanation.

Smoking can result in a number of health problems, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, reproductive troubles, and increased infant mortality. According to a 2008 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year in the United States nearly 450,000 people die of a smoking-related illness, resulting in 5.1 million years of potential life lost, $96 billion in direct medical costs, and $96.8 billion in lost productivity.

How is Virginia Doing?

Smoking Rate by Age.  See text for explanation.

In 2011, Virginia's adult smoking rate of 20.9 percent was a bit below the national average of 21.2 percent and ranked the state 22nd lowest in the nation. The percent of people smoking in Virginia in 2011 was lower than in Tennessee (23.0 percent) and North Carolina (21.8 percent), but higher than in Maryland (19.1 percent).

The Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth recently reported that the percentage of high school students in Virginia who are regular smokers has declined by more than 55 percent since 2001 (from 28.6% to 13% in 2011).

What Influences Smoking?

Smoking Rate by Education Level.  See text for explanation.

Long-term data indicate that the higher one's educational attainment and income (and to some degree, age), the lower the prevalence of smoking becomes. In 2011, smoking prevalence was highest in Virginia among those aged 25-34 (28.5%) -- and represents an increase for a second consecutive year. Those aged 65 and older had the lowest smoking rates (8.9 percent). Only 13.7 percent of people with incomes of $50,000 or more smoked in 2011, while 35.8 percent of people with incomes less than $15,000 smoked in that same year.

What is the State's Role?

Smoking by Income Level in Virginia.  See text for explanation.

The state can influence smoking behaviors in a variety of ways:

  • increase taxes on tobacco products and ban smoking in proscribed areas
  • create public education programs about the risks of tobacco use
  • support smoking cessation programs
  • mobilize communities to identify and reduce the commercial availability of tobacco products to youth
  • place restrictions on advertising aimed at young people.

Page last modified January 21, 2014
Smoking Rate by State Smoking Rate by Age Smoking Rate by Education LevelSmoking Rate by Income Level

State rankings are ordered so that #1 is understood to be the best.

Data and Definitions

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System
NOTE: BRFSS changed its sampling methodology in 2011; as a result, this year's results are not comparable to earlier years.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Smoking-Attributable Mortality report, 2000-2004

The Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth,

See the Data Sources and Updates Calendar for a detailed list of the data resources used for indicator measures on Virginia Performs.

At a Glance:
Smoking Rates in Virginia

Performance Trend: Trend is maintaining.
State Influence:  

National Ranking:  At 20.9%, Virginia's 2011 smoking rate is just below the national average and ranks the state 22nd in the country.

State Programs & Initiatives

The Virginia Tobacco Settlement Foundation (VTSF), established in 1999 with partial funding from the Master Tobacco Settlement Agreement, leads smoking prevention efforts statewide.

The Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth was established in 2001 to combat tobacco use and obesity among Virginia's young people.

The Tobacco Use Control Project works closely with coalitions, health districts, and other partners to reduce tobacco use and provide support services for those looking to quit.

Additional Information

There are scores of public and private resources to help people quit smoking -- a move which has many critical and lasting health benefits. New medications are also proving quite effective in reducing withdrawal symptoms and even blocking the effects of nicotine should the user resume smoking. 

A partial list:

To see how Virginia's localities stack up on smoking and a number of other health factors and outcomes, visit County Health Rankings.