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Community Health Data Base
An Information Service of the Philadelphia Health Management Corporation

Cigarette Smoking and Exposure to Secondhand Smoke in Southeastern Pennsylvania
Thursday. November 14, 2013


The Great American Smokeout, which will be taking place on Thursday, November 21st, encourages smokers to use the date to make a plan to quit, or to plan in advance and quit smoking that day. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), by quitting—even for one day—smokers will be taking an important step towards a healthier life and reducing their cancer risk. [1]  In the United States, tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death. Yet, some 43.8 million Americans, nearly one in every five adults,still smoke cigarettes. [2]


Public Health Management Corporation’s Center for Data Innovation and Community Health Data Base (CHDB) has tracked tobacco use among adults through the Southeastern Pennsylvania (SEPA) Household Health Survey for more than a decade. The Household Health Survey is conducted by telephone and includes 10,000 households in the SEPA region (Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia Counties) every two years.


This article highlights data from the 2012 Southeastern Pennsylvania Household Health Survey to examine tobacco use and exposure by a number of important demographic and socioeconomic characteristics.


Cigarette Smoking

Approximately 18% of Southeastern Pennsylvania adults 18 years of age or older currently smokes cigarettes every day or some days.

  • Philadelphia adults are more likely to smoke (23%) compared with residents of Delaware (19%), Bucks (16%), Montgomery (13%), and Chester (13%) Counties.
  • Across the region, men are more likely to smoke than women (21% compared with 16%).
  • Cigarette smoking among adults decreases with age; 22% of adults ages 18-39 currently smoke, as do 6% of adults 75 years of age or older.
  • Black adults are the most likely to smoke cigarettes (25%) compared with 22% of Latino adults, 16% of White adults and 10% of Asian adults.
  • Cigarette smoking decreases as educational attainment increases. About one-third of adults in the region with less than a high school diploma (32%) currently smoke, while 9% of adults with a college degree smoke. (Figure 1)
  • Adults living in poverty more likely to smoke (34%) compared with adults at or above 100% of the Federal Poverty Level (16%).

Smoke Exposure at Home

More than one in ten adults (18+) live in a household where someone in the house smokes cigarettes, cigars or pipes inside the home (12%). In addition, 7% of adults who do not smoke are exposed to secondhand smoke by another household resident smoking inside the home, representing approximately 186,000 people.


The following bullet points examine non-smokers exposure to secondhand smoke at home.

  • Non-smokers in Philadelphia County are more likely to be exposed to secondhand smoke in their home (10%) compared with adults residing in the other SEPA counties. (Figure 2)
  • Black non-smokers are more likely to live in a household where someone smokes (12%) in comparison with Latino adults (7%), White adults (6%) and Asian adults.
  • Similar to cigarette smoking, those with less than a high school diploma are more likely to be exposed to tobacco smoke at home (12%) compared with those with a college degree or more (3%).

Cigarette Usage, Smoke Exposure at Home, and Key Health Indicators

  • Adults who smoke cigarettes are more likely to be in fair or poor health (26%) than adults who do not smoke (14%). The same applies for adults who do not smoke and are exposed to secondhand smoke by another resident smoking in the home—21% are in fair or poor health compared with 14% of those not exposed.
  • Four in ten non-smoking adults exposed to secondhand smoke at home (40%) have been diagnosed with high blood pressure compared with three in ten non-smokers who are not exposed to secondhand smoke inside the home (31%).


It is evident that tobacco smoke presents a serious health concern to not only the individuals that are smoking but also, to those exposed to secondhand smoke around them. In Southeastern Pennsylvania region specifically, it is a burden unequally carried by individuals of minority racial/ethnic backgrounds, those with lower educational attainment, and those living in poverty.


For information about cessation resources and support in the Southeastern Pennsylvania region, please visit Health Promotion Council’s Southeastern Pennsylvania Tobacco Control Project at


For more information about these findings, please contact Sarah Ingerman at


To download this article as a PDF, click here. To read more about our previous data, please click here.

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