Americans Smoke Less, Gain Weight

March 11, 2010

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Analytics, Automated & MarTech | Food & Restaurants | Pharma & Healthcare

Americans smoked less but continued gaining weight during the last five years, according to the annual Harris Poll on key health risks.

Smoking is No Longer Cool
While smoking was once a sign of “cool” in US popular culture, its steady decline in popularity during the last five years suggests this is no longer the case. In 2010, 17% of US adults said they smoked cigarettes, down from 20% in 2009 and a five-year high of 24% in 2007. By comparison, in 1983, 30% of US adults smoked cigarettes.


Usage of other forms of tobacco is holding steady at low percentages. In 2010, 1% of US adults smoked a pipe, 4% smoked cigars, and 2% chewed tobacco. These percentages all remained fairly consistent on a yearly basis from 2006-2010.

Weight and Obesity Stay High
Unlike tobacco usage, the percentage of US adults who are overweight and obese has risen in the past five years. Using the widely accepted Body Mass Index (BMI) measurement, in 2010, 64% of US adults had a BMI score of 25 or more, indicating they are overweight. Another 29% of US adults had a BMI of 30 or more, indicating obesity. This means a combined 93% of the US adult population has a body weight above healthy limits.


In 2005, 59% of US adults were overweight and 23% were obese according to BMI scores. The percentage of overweight US adults peaked at 66% in 2006 and 2009. 2010 marks the highest percentage of obese US adults.

US Eating Habits Get Healthier
Despite significant widespread weight issues, the US is making general progress in following healthy eating habits, according to the new Nielsen Healthy Eating Index.

The Nielsen Healthy Eating Index scored 402 in 2009, a 33.4% increase from 389 in 2008. The chart below shows the seasonal nature of healthy eating habits across the US. Every year, consumers make unhealthy food choices over the holidays. Then in January, diets get back on track and healthy eating is a priority again.

About the Survey:This Harris Poll was conducted by telephone within the US between February 16-21, 2010 among 1,010 adults aged 18 and older. Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region, number of adults in the household, number of phone lines in the household were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population.

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