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Tobacco Use

Scientists have conducted thousands of studies on tobacco's role in causing cancer and the evidence is incontrovertible. Cigarette smoking is linked to at least 30 percent of all US deaths from cancer. Avoiding tobacco use is the single most important step that Americans can take to prevent cancer.

The Risk Factor Monitoring and Methods Branch (RFMMB) monitors tobacco use through the use of surveys of the US household population. For example, our staff is primarily responsible for designing and administering the NCI-sponsored Tobacco Use Supplement to the Current Population Survey (TUS-CPS). As part of this effort, we gather suggestions from a broad range of experts to develop the questions for the survey. We are also involved in developing the tobacco-related questions that are periodically added to the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) Cancer Control Supplement, conducted by the CDC National Center for Health Statistics. We also use the tobacco use information contained in the Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS), developed by the National Cancer Institute.

Information from these surveys allow us to monitor Americans' progress in reducing tobacco use, evaluate tobacco control programs, and conduct other tobacco-related research. We examine the data in terms of trends over time and patterns across various groups, and we look at the issues from several perspectives:

  • We analyze individuals' smoking status (every day, some day, former, or never-smoker); current level of cigarette consumption; smoking history; age of initiation; attempts to quit; methods used to quit; and use of cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco, snuff, and other non-cigarette tobacco products.
  • We also examine national, state, and local laws and policies on questions such as whether smoking is allowed in indoor workplaces or in the home; advice given by doctors and dentists about quitting smoking; and opinions of the US populace about restrictions on smoking in public places and tobacco advertisement and promotion.
  • We explore and assess health disparities issues related to tobacco use. For example, we provided a presentation and report from the May 2010 TUS-CPS on "What menthol smokers report they would do if menthol cigarettes were no longer available" to the FDA Center for Tobacco Products - Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee (TPSAC) as they were deliberating over whether or not menthol in cigarettes was harmful to the public health of the US. For more information, see this presentation (PDF) and this report (PDF). In addition, a special supplement of AddictionExternal Web Site Policy in November 2010 on the impact of menthol cigarettes featured data from the TUS-CPS and the Cancer Control Supplement (CCS) to the NHIS. See our publications database for additional reports and publications on health disparities using TUS-CPS data.

Last Modified: 11 Apr 2014