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Brief Number 3

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Number of Smokers

Cigarette Consumption

Cessation Attempts


Estimated Number of Adult Cigarette Smokers & Cigarette Consumption
West Virginia, 1990-1999

The status of cigarette smoking among certain groups of people or within certain geographical boundaries is most frequently reported as a rate or percentage of the given population. Following trends in behaviors such as smoking is more easily accomplished using rates, because population sizes can change due to natural increase or decrease or in- or out-migration and a prevalence allows a relative measure of the problem. However, for such activities as program implementation, numbers, not rates, are often more helpful. For this reason, this document presents estimated numbers of adult smokers in West Virginia and on a sub-state level. The estimates are derived from data collected by the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), a monthly telephone survey of health behaviors among West Virginians aged 18 and older.

Number of Smokers. During the past decade (1990-99), the number of estimated adult smokers in the state has ranged from a low of 329,587 in 1992 to a high of 386,716 in 1998. The most recent estimate is 375,747 smokers in 1999.

Graph showing the estimated number of cigarette smokers aged 18 and older for years 1990 to 1999.

The estimated numbers of men and women smokers have been relatively similar over the past decade, with women smokers actually outnumbering men during six of those 10 years.

Estimated Number* of Cigarette Smokers Aged 18 and Older by Gender

West Virginia Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 1990-1999

Year Men Women Total
1990 182,892 171,510 354,402
1991 162,044 174,462 336,506
1992 169,592 159,994 329,587
1993 175,617 188,246 363,862
1994 174,401 190,777 365,179
1995 160,222 191,913 352,134
1996 182,602 187,829 370,431
1997 178,548 203,231 381,779
1998 193,572 193,145 386,716
1999 197,204 178,543 375,747
*Confidence intervals provided in the Appendix.

The pie charts below illustrate the change from 1990 to 1999 in the estimated number of adult smokers by age group Young adults aged 18-24 now make up a larger percentage of smokers (15.2% vs. 10.3%), while the percentage of older smokers (aged 65 and older) has shrunk 6.8% vs. 13.4%).

Graphics comparing percentage of smokers by age group from 1990 and 1999.

There were an estimated 36,699 smokers aged 18-24 in 1990. This number had grown to 64,169 by 1997 and was just slightly lower, at 57,123, in 1999. This increase in the number of young adult smokers is a matter of concern among the state's health professionals.

Graphic showing estimated smokers aged 18 - 24 for years 1990 through 1999.

Another population whose increased smoking is a major cause of concern is women of childbearing years, i.e., ages 18-44, because of the association between smoking and low-birth weight in infants as well as other tobacco-related problems. In 1992, an estimated 98,138 women in this age group reported smoking; this increased to 125,746 in 1997. A sharp decline to 106,382 was seen in 1999, but it is too soon to know if this decrease will be maintained.

Graph showing estimated number of Women Aged 18-44 Who Smoke.

Click on the map to the right to view the estimated number of smokers by county or county grouping using aggregated data from the BRFSS for the years 1995-99. The numbers shown within each of the 12 county groupings are the totals for the entire multicounty region. Sample sizes for the individual counties included in the groupings, or regions, were too small to allow for the calculation of county-level estimates. As would be expected, the largest number of adult smokers (43,722) was reported in Kanawha County, the state's most populous county. PDF version of the map.

Cigarette Consumption. Data from the West Virginia cigarette excise tax collection history indicate that cigarette consumption (as measured by cigarette sales) increased through 1997,with a slight decline noted since, as seen on the graph below. An estimated 197,418,000 packs of 20 cigarettes were sold in the state in fiscal year 1989/90 compared to 202,682,000 packs in 1998/99. (The Appendix contains annual fiscal year estimates of cigarette sales from 1966/67 through 1998/99.) The 1998/99 estimate of consumption yields an average of 1.5 packs, or 30 cigarettes, per day per adult smoker. These estimates refer only to cigarettes purchased in West Virginia and do not reflect across-border sales.

Graph showing number of cigarettes consumed in the 1990s

Self-reported data from the BRFSS indicate that adult smokers in the state account for approximately two-thirds of the cigarette consumption in the state. The mean number of cigarettes smoked in 1999 as reported by respondents to the survey was 20.2. (Average cigarette consumption reported on the BRFSS from 1990-1999 was consistent throughout the period, ranging from 19.4 to 20.8 cigarettes per day.) The difference between the 30 cigarettes per smoker calculated from the excise tax database and the 20 cigarettes per smoker reported to the BRFSS is likely due to a combination of underreporting by BRFSS respondents and smoking by state residents under the age of 18(1).

Also according to the BRFSS, the number of adult smokers (who smoke daily) who reported smoking a pack or more of cigarettes (20+ cigarettes) per day decreased slightly between 1990 and 1999, from an estimated 248,781 in 1990 to an estimated 204,289 in 1999. The estimated number of smokers who smoke two or more packs of cigarettes a day decreased from 58,242 in 1990 to 43,903 in 1999.

Cessation Attempts. Since 1991, the Behavioral Risk Factor Survey has asked the question "During the past 12 months, have you quit smoking for one day or longer?" The percentage of smokers who responded "yes" to that question has ranged from a low of 41% in 1995 to a high of 53% in 1999, indicating an interest in smoking cessation among approximately half of adult smokers over each year of the decade.

Graphic showing percentage of current smokers who quit for at least one day in previous 12 months. 1991 - 1999

1In 1997 (the lastest year for which data were available at time of publication), the Youth Risk Behavior Survey estimated that approximately 17,000 West Virginia students in grades 9-12 were regular cigarette smokers. Some of these students (those aged 18 and 19) could also have been included in the BRFSS survey.

Brief #3, Hard Copy Released - September 2000, Web Publication - January 2001

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