Tobacco in the United States

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Tobacco has a long history in the United States. An estimated 45.3 million people, or 19.3% of all adults (aged 18 years or older), in the United States smoke cigarettes in 2010. By state, in 2010, smoking prevalence ranged from 9.1% in Utah to 26.8% in West Virginia. By region, in 2010, smoking prevalence was highest in the Midwest (21.8%) and South (21.0%) and lowest in the West (15.9%). In 2009 46.6 million, or 20.6 percent of adults 18 and older were current smokers. Men tend to smoke more than women. In 2009 23.5 percent of men smoked compared to 17.9 percent women.

Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, accounting for approximately 443,000 deaths, or 1 of every 5 deaths, in the United States each year.[1] Cigarette smoking alone has cost the United States $96 billion in direct medical expenses and $97 billion in lost productivity per year or an average of $4,260 per adult smoker.

History of commercial tobacco[edit]

Commercial tobacco production dates back to the 17th century when the first commercial crop was planted. The industry originated in the production of tobacco for pipes and snuff. Different war efforts in the world created a shift in demand and production of tobacco in the world and the American colonies. With the advent of the American Revolution trade with the colonies was interrupted which shifted trade to other countries in the world. During this shift there was an increase in demand for tobacco in the United States, where the demand for tobacco in the form of cigars and chewing tobacco increased. Other wars, such as the War of 1812 would introduce the Andalusian cigarette to the rest of Europe. This, accompanied with the American Civil War changed the production of tobacco in America to the manufactured cigarette.


On February 4, 2009, the Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009 was signed into law, which raised the federal tax rate for cigarettes on April 1, 2009 from $0.39 per pack to $1.01 per pack.[2][3]


443,000 Americans die of smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke each year. For every smoking-related death, another 20 people suffer with a smoking-related disease. (2011)[4]

California's adult smoking rate has dropped nearly 50% since the state began the nation's longest-running tobacco control program in 1988. California saved $86 billion in health care costs by spending $1.8 billion on tobacco control, a 50:1 return on investment over its first 15 years of funding its tobacco control program.[4]

Companies and products[edit]

Some of the notable tobacco companies in the US are:

Lobbying and organizations[edit]

There has been intensive lobbying in the US to portray smoking as a harmless activity. The Insider is a 1999 feature film about the production of a news segment exposing Big Tobacco.

Lobbyists include:


A half million children work in the fields of America picking food in 2012. In eastern North Carolina, children have been interviewed as young as fourteen who worked harvesting tobacco, and recent news reports describe children as young as nine and ten doing such work. Federal law provides no minimum age for work on small farms with parental permission, and children ages twelve and up may work for hire on any size farm for unlimited periods outside school hours. According to Human Rights Watch, farm-work is the most hazardous occupation open to children.[5][6]

See also[edit]


Further reading[edit]

  • Brandt, Allan. The Cigarette Century: The Rise, Fall, and Deadly Persistence of the Product That Defined America (2007)
  • Breen, T. H. (1985). Tobacco Culture. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-00596-6. Source on tobacco culture in 18th-century Virginia pp. 46–55
  • Burns, Eric. The Smoke of the Gods: A Social History of Tobacco (Temple University Press, 2007)
  • Hahn, Barbara. Making Tobacco Bright: Creating an American Commodity, 1617-1937 (Johns Hopkins University Press; 2011) 248 pages; examines how marketing, technology, and demand figured in the rise of Bright Flue-Cured Tobacco, a variety first grown in the inland Piedmont region of the Virginia-North Carolina border.
  • Kluger, Richard. Ashes to Ashes: America's Hundred-Year Cigarette War (1996), Pulitzer Prize
  • Price, Jacob M. "The rise of Glasgow in the Chesapeake tobacco trade, 1707-1775." William and Mary Quarterly (1954) pp: 179-199. in JSTOR
  • Tilley, Nannie May The Bright Tobacco Industry 1860–1929 ISBN 0-405-04728-2.

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