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Where do smokers live?

4 min read


According to the American Lung Association, tobacco-caused disease kills more than 392,000 people every year in the U.S., making it the leading cause of preventable death. Another 50,000 people die from exposure to secondhand smoke. The association also notes that in 2004, smoking cost the U.S. more than $193 billion, including $97 billion in lost productivity and $96 billion in direct health care expenditures, or an average of $4,260 per adult smoker. With the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, states are beginning to address the implications of this important issue.

For example, concerned about projected increases of health care costs, particularly for smokers, Oklahoma State Sen. David Holt, a Republican, is proposing legislation that allows employers to fire cigarette smokers. Current state laws prohibit employers from discriminating against smokers. Holt believes that if people are concerned about losing their jobs, they will stop smoking. He also believes the law will increase productivity and reduce health care costs for people who no longer smoke.

Demographics of U.S. smokers

The CDC claims that in 2010, 19% of all U.S. adults smoked, most of whom smoke less than one pack a day. Where are they? Smokers live in all parts of the U.S. According to Esri, a geographic information systems company, people who smoke less than six packs of cigarettes a week are most likely to live in the Southern and Western U.S. and in Southern Texas.

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People who smoke nine or more packs of cigarettes a week are most likely to live in the South.

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What type of American is likely to smoke? What type of neighborhoods do they live in? Esri developed the Tapestry Segmentation system that classifies U.S. residential neighborhoods into 65 unique market segments based on socioeconomic and demographic characteristics.

The type of American who likely smokes less than six packs of cigarettes per week is much different from those who might smoke more than nine packs of cigarettes per week. The primary difference is the location of their neighborhoods — urban versus rural.

Residents of City Commons and Urban Rows neighborhoods are twice as likely as the average American to smoke less than six packs of cigarettes a week. City Commons neighborhoods are found primarily in large Southern and Midwestern metropolitan areas. Residents of these neighborhoods are young, single or single parents, live in high-rise apartment buildings, and may be unemployed or work part-time. Urban Rows neighborhoods are found primarily in large Northeastern port cities, with smaller concentrations in the South. Residents are often part of multigenerational households and live in row houses typically built before 1950.

Conversely, residents of Home Town, Rural Bypasses, and Southern Satellites neighborhoods are twice as likely as the average American to smoke nine or more packs of cigarettes a week. Home Town neighborhoods are a mix of singles and families. Residents of these settled, low-density communities are content to stay close to home, so their neighborhoods rarely change. Rural Bypasses neighborhoods are in small Southern towns along back country roads near open space, undeveloped land and farms. Located in the rural South, most of the households in Southern Satellites neighborhoods are comprised of married-couple families. They work in the manufacturing and service industries.

Oklahoma smokers

Holt’s bill is just for the state of Oklahoma. Where do smokers live in the state? If the bill passes, where would businesses and residents be affected the most? Smokers in neighborhoods around larger cities such as Tulsa and Oklahoma City might smoke fewer than six packs of cigarettes a week. Tapestry segments in many of these neighborhoods are City Commons and Modest Income Homes.

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Residents of Oklahoma who smoke nine or more packs of cigarettes a week most likely live in rural areas in the eastern part of the state. Tapestry Segmentation classifies many of these neighborhoods as Rural Bypasses, Southern Satellites and Home Town.

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Why does this matter?

Knowing where smokers live can help states to target non-smoking campaigns to people who need them the most. While it is unknown whether the proposed legislation will pass in Oklahoma, the desire to decrease smoking is a legitimate concern for all states and government-funded health care programs. Many smoke-related health problems are preventable when people stop smoking, lowering their smoke-related health care costs.

More information about Esri’s data can be found at, or to learn more about Esri in general, go to

Pam Allison is a digital media, marketing strategist and location intelligence consultant. You can visit her blog at