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 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?
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?
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?
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.
State rankings are ordered so that #1 is understood to be the best.
Data and Definitions
Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention
Risk Factor Surveillance
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, www.vfhy.org/statistics/tobacco/numbers
See the Data Sources and Updates Calendar for a detailed list of the data resources used for indicator measures on Virginia Performs.