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Tobacco: Summary and Data Highlights

Although smoking among King County adults fell for 20 years, this trend has stalled since 2006.

Cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the U.S., accounting for almost 1 in 5 deaths each year. Deaths from tobacco use exceed the total of deaths from HIV, alcohol use, illegal drug use, motor vehicle injury, suicide, and murder.

For most of the analyses on adult smoking, 3 years of survey data were combined (2009, 2010, and 2011). Data on teen tobacco use came from a 2010 survey administered in Washington public schools.


  • In the rolling year 2012-2014, 12% of King County adults were current smokers. The rate of adult smoking declined for almost 20 years.
  • Among King County 8th and 10th graders, cigarette smoking within the past 30 days decreased between 2006 and 2010.  Among 12th graders, however, the rate did not change. 

Regional, State, & National Comparisons

  • King County region mattered for adults, but not for teens.
    • Adult smoking rates were highest in South Region (16%), lowest in East Region (8%);, North Region and Seattle did not differ much from the county overall.
    • Teen tobacco use was similar across all regions (results not shown).
  • The King County adult smoking rate of 13% (average of 2011-2015) was lower than 2014 rate in Washington State (15%).
  • King County 8th and 10th graders were less likely to smoke than 8th and 10th graders across Washington State, but smoking among King County 12th graders did not differ from the state average for 12th graders.  Comparable national data for teens are not available. 

Gender and Age

  • Among both adults and teens, males were more likely to smoke than females.
  • Adults age 65 and older were half as likely as younger adults to smoke cigarettes.
  • Among teens, rates of smoking – and of using any tobacco product – increased with age.
    • For use of any kind of tobacco (cigarettes, cigars, or cigarillos; snuff or chewing tobacco; or tobacco that tastes like fruit, candy, or alcohol):
      • The rate among 12th graders was 1 in 4.
      • The rate among 10th graders was 1 in 7.
      • The rate among 8th graders was 1 in 14. 
      • 12th graders were 3.5 times more likely than 8th graders to report smoking cigarettes or using any kind of tobacco over the past 30 days.
      • 10th graders were twice as likely as 8th graders to report smoking cigarettes or using any kind of tobacco over the past 30 days.
  • Cigarette smoking accounted for only a fraction of overall tobacco use in King County teens: 
    • 44% of total tobacco use among 8th graders
    • 64% among 10th graders
    • 60% among 12th graders

Disparities in Tobacco Use

  • Smoking rates increased as income went down. Compared to adults in households with annual income of $75,000 or more (7%), smoking rates were:
    • 3 times greater among adults in households earning less than $25,000 a year (22% to 24%)
    • 2 times greater among adults in households earning between $25,000 and $49,999 a year (13% to 14%).
    • 1.7 times greater among adults in households earning between $50,000 and $74,999 a year (12%)
  • Smoking was also most common among adults with the least education.  Compared to college graduates (5%), smoking rates were:
    • 5 times greater among adults without a high school degree (25%).
    • 4 times greater among high school graduates (20%).
    • 3 times greater among those with some college but no degree (15%).
  • Employment status was also related to smoking. Smoking rates from highest to lowest:
    • 34% of adults who were unable to work.
    • 23% of unemployed adults.
    • 10% of employed adults.
    • 6% of retired adults.
    • 6% of homemakers or students.
  • Race/Ethnicity
    • Among King County adults, smoking varied by race/ethnicity.
      • Only 5% of Asian adults in King County were current smokers.
      • More than 20% of Black, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, and multiple-race adults were smokers.
      • Teen tobacco use in the past 30 days also varied by race/ethnicity.
        • At 7%, Asian teens were least likely to have used tobacco. 
        • At 28%, American Indian/Alaska Native teens were more likely to have used tobacco than Hispanic (17%), White (17%), Black (15%), multiple-race (16%), and Asian (7%) teens. 
  • Adults with a disability (15%) were more likely to smoke than those who were not disabled (10%).
  • Lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender adults (20%) were more likely to smoke than heterosexual adults (11%).

Family Composition

  • Adults in a couple relationship (8%) were half as likely to smoke as adults without a partner (17%).

"I tasted my first cigarette at age 3 and was smoking regularly by high school. In the Navy I got up to 4 packs a day. I must have quit hundreds of times. But finally it took.  I haven’t had a cigarette in 25 years."
North Seattle male who quit smoking in 1986.