National Survey on Drug Use and Health Quantity and Frequency of Cigarette Use
November 14, 2003

Quantity and Frequency of Cigarette Use

In Brief

  • In 2002, 26 percent of persons aged 12 or older were current smokers, and 63 percent of current smokers were daily smokers
  • Current smokers aged 26 or older were more likely to be daily smokers than smokers aged 18 to 25 or smokers aged 12 to 17
  • A higher percentage of current female smokers smoked on a daily basis than current male smokers

Cigarette smoking increased steadily between 1900 and the mid-1960s but has declined since that time.1 The 2002 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), formerly the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (NHSDA), asks respondents aged 12 or older who smoked part or all of a cigarette in the past 30 days (i.e., current smokers) to report the number of days they smoked cigarettes during that time and the average number of cigarettes smoked per day on each of the days they smoked. Responses were analyzed by age, gender, and race/ethnicity for comparative purposes.2


Prevalence of Past 30-day Cigarette Use
In 2002, 26 percent or 61 million persons aged 12 or older smoked cigarettes in the past 30 days. Current smoking rates were higher among young adults aged 18 to 25 (41 percent) than youths aged 12 to 17 (13 percent) or older adults aged 26 or older (25 percent).

Among persons 12 or older, males had higher rates of smoking in the past 30 days (29 percent) than females (23 percent). American Indians or Alaska Natives also had a higher rate of past 30-day smoking (37 percent) than whites (27 percent), blacks (25 percent), Hispanics (23 percent), or Asians (18 percent).

Figure 1. Average Number of Days Smoked Cigarettes in the Past 30 Days, by Age, Gender, and Race/Ethnicity: 2002

Figure 2. Average Number Cigarettes Smoked Per Day of Use in the Past 30 Days, by Age, Gender, and Race/Ethnicity: 2002

Figure 1. Average Number of Days Smoked Cigarettes in the Past 30 Days, by Age, Gender, and Race/Ethnicity: 2002 Figure 2. Average Number Cigarettes Smoked Per Day of Use in the Past 30 Days, by Age, Gender, and Race/Ethnicity: 2002


Number of Days Smoked in the Past 30 Days
Current smokers aged 12 or older smoked an average of 23 of the past 30 days. Smokers aged 26 or older smoked cigarettes more days in the past 30 days than smokers aged 18 to 25 or smokers aged 12 to 17 (Figure 1).

Among current smokers aged 12 or older, whites smoked cigarettes more days in the past 30 days than American Indians or Alaska Natives, blacks, Asians, or Hispanics (Figure 1). There was no difference between current male and female smokers in the number of days they smoked in the past 30 days.


Number of Cigarettes Smoked Per Day in the Past 30 Days
Current smokers aged 12 or older smoked on average 13 cigarettes per day on the days they smoked. Current smokers aged 26 or older smoked a higher average number of cigarettes per day than smokers aged 18 to 25 or smokers aged 12 to 17 (Figure 2). Among past 30-day smokers aged 12 or older, males smoked more cigarettes per day on the days they smoked (14 cigarettes) than females (12 cigarettes). Among current smokers, whites smoked more cigarettes per day on the days they smoked than American Indians or Alaska Natives, blacks, Asians, or Hispanics.

Figure 3. Percentage of Current Smokers Who Smoke Daily*, by Age, Gender, and Race/Ethnicity: 2002

Table 1. Number of Cigarettes Smoked Per Day among Daily** Smokers, by Age, Gender, and Race/Ethnicity: Percentages, 2002

Figure 3. Percentage of Current Smokers Who Smoke Daily*, by Age, Gender, and Race/Ethnicity: 2002 Table 1. Number of Cigarettes Smoked Per Day among Daily** Smokers, by Age, Gender, and Race/Ethnicity:  Percentages, 2002


Amount and Frequency of Cigarette Use among Daily Smokers
Sixty-three percent or 39 million current smokers aged 12 or older smoked cigarettes on a daily basis (i.e., smoked every day in the past 30 days). Among current smokers, daily smoking varied by age group: 32 percent for 12 to 17 year olds; 52 percent for 18 to 25 year olds; and 69 percent for persons aged 26 or older (Figure 3). A higher percentage of current female smokers smoked on a daily basis than current male smokers, and a higher percentage of current white smokers smoked on a daily basis than current smokers among American Indian or Alaska Native, black, Asian, or Hispanic groups.

Among daily smokers aged 12 or older, 16 percent smoked fewer than 6 cigarettes per day, 31 percent smoked ½ pack of cigarettes per day, 36 percent smoked 1 pack of cigarettes per day, and 17 percent smoked more than 1 pack of cigarettes per day. A higher percentage of daily smokers aged 26 or older smoked a pack or more per day than daily smokers aged 18 to 25 or aged 12 to 17. Among daily smokers, males were more likely to smoke more than a pack of cigarettes per day than females, and whites were more likely to smoke more than a pack of cigarettes per day than blacks or Hispanics (Table 1).3


End Notes
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (1999, November 5). Achievements in public health, 1900–1999: Tobacco use – United States, 1900-1999. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 48(43), 986–993. Errata in 48(44), 1027, and 49(1), 23.


  2. Estimates for Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander respondents are not shown for the racial/ethnic comparisons in this report due to low precision.


  3. Estimates for American Indian or Alaska Native and Asian respondents are not shown in Table 1 due to low precision.


Table and Figure Notes
*Current smoking is defined as any cigarette use in the past 30 days. Daily smoking is defined as cigarette use on each of the past 30 days.

**Daily smoking is defined as cigarette use on each of the past 30 days.

Source (table and all figures): SAMHSA 2002 NSDUH.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) is an annual survey sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Prior to 2002, this survey was called the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (NHSDA). The 2002 data are based on information obtained from 68,126 persons aged 12 or older. The survey collects data by administering questionnaires to a representative sample of the population through face-to-face interviews at their place of residence.

The NSDUH Report is prepared by the Office of Applied Studies (OAS), SAMHSA, and by RTI in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.

Information and data for this issue are based on the following publication and statistics:

Office of Applied Studies. (2003). Results from the 2002 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: National findings (DHHS Publication No. SMA 03–3836, NHSDA Series H–22). Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Also available on-line: http://www.oas.samhsa.gov.

Additional tables available upon request.

The NSDUH Report (formerly The NHSDA Report) is published periodically by the Office of Applied Studies, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). All material appearing in this report is in the public domain and may be reproduced or copied without permission from SAMHSA. Additional copies of this report or other reports from the Office of Applied Studies are available on-line: http://www.oas.samhsa.gov. Citation of the source is appreciated.

This page was last updated on December 30, 2008.