Smokers in US Cutting Down on Cigarettes

broken cigarette
Quitters scored higher on measures of overall quality of life, health-related quality of life and positive emotions compared with those who continued to smoke, the study showed. (Image credit: Cigarette photo | shutterstock)

Smokers in the United States are generally smoking less than they used to, according to a new Gallup poll.

Results show that a record low percentage (1 percent) said they smoke more than one pack of cigarettes daily, and a record high percentage (68 percent) said they smoke less than one pack a day, according to the poll, based on data collected since 1944.

The percentage of smokers who reported smoking more than a pack a day has declined in recent decades — it peaked at 30 percent in 1978 before falling below 20 percent in the late 1980s, and below 10 percent in the late 1990s, according to Gallup.

The number of pack-a-day smokers is now at 31 percent — a percentage that has remained relatively constant, Gallup found.

The results come from Gallup's annual consumption poll, conducted in July. It is possible that the decline is partly due to people giving more "socially desirable" answers when asked about their smoking, and therefore actually smoking more than they reported when interviewed, the researchers said.

The vast majority said they regret ever starting to smoke. If they could do it over again, they would not have started, 88 percent of smokers said.

However, a smaller percentage (78 percent) said they would like to quit. This percentage has remained relatively steady since the late 1990s, according to Gallup.

Poll results released in August showed that the percentage of people in the U.S. who smoke — about 20 percent — is tied for its all-time low.

The new poll results are based on telephone interviews conducted July 9-12, 2012, with a random sample of 1,014 adults living in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The sample is weighted by respondents' genders, ages, races and other factors so that the results are nationally representative.

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Live Science Staff
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