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Gallup Poll: Most U.S. Smokers Want to Quit, Have Tried Multiple Times

Specter of disease and death is no deterrent (July 31)

Most current smokers in the U.S. would like to give up smoking, according to a July Gallup survey. Eighty-five percent say they have tried to quit at least once in their lifetime, including 45% who have tried at least three times.

On average, 74% of smokers have said they wanted to quit over the 25 surveys on which Gallup has asked this question since 1977. The finding that smokers have tried on average 3.6 times to quit smoking over their lifetimes — only to return to their habit — is understandable in light of the fact that 72% of smokers claim that they are “addicted” to cigarettes, Gallup observes.

Overall, 19% of Americans say they currently smoke; 24% are former smokers (they used to smoke on a regular basis), and 56% have never smoked. The quarter of Americans who are former smokers are primarily defined by age: 41% of those 65 years old and older used to smoke but do not do so now, compared with 12% of those aged 18 to 29 years.

The quarter of Americans who have successfully quit smoking, when asked to name the strategies or methods they used to quit, are most likely to attribute their success to deciding to quit “cold turkey.”

The majority of former smokers say concern for their health was the main factor that caused them to quit smoking. This is an important finding, but given that 91% of smokers already admit that smoking is harmful to smokers’ health and 79% admit that smoking is a cause of lung cancer, it is clear that the specter of bad health, disease, and death has not been enough in and of itself to get smokers to stop, Gallup says.

Source: Gallup; July 31, 2013.

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