Erie Vital Signs

Health Behaviors and Disease Prevention: Current Smokers

Recent Performance

This trend is negative or needs improvement.

Erie County has traditionally had relatively high rates of smokers. Despite a dip in 2007, the rate of smokers has creeped up to 27 percent in 2013*. Even more distressing is the widening gap between Erie County smoking rates and state rates. While Erie County adult smokers have increased to 27 percent of the adult population, the state rate remains steady at 22 percent and the nation has dropped to 19 percent. This is concerning, since smoking causes lung cancer and heart disease and is one of the leading causes of preventable deaths.

Erie County residents who are most likely to smoke cigarettes are 18-to-44 year olds, males, those without high school diplomas, and those who earn less than $25,000 a year.

*2013 indicates data for the period 2011-13.

Note: Much of the data for the Health Indicators come from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) Survey. Each metro area decides whether or not to participate each year, so these indicators often do not have data for every year for every metro area. As a result, the graphs show markers (dots, diamonds, etc.) for the individual years rather than lines. If there are data for consecutive years, the markers will be joined with a line on the graphs.

The Basics

This indicator reports the percentage of Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) Survey respondents who chose “Every day” or “Some days” in response to the survey question: Do you now smoke cigarettes every day, some days, or not at all?

Why It's Important

According to the Centers for Disease Control, smoking harms nearly every organ of the body, causes many diseases, and reduces the health of smokers in general. Smoking causes diminished overall heath, such as self-reported poor health, increased absenteeism from work, and increased health care utilization and cost.

Smokers are more likely than nonsmokers to develop heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, and COPD. Smoking is estimated to increase the risk:

  • for coronary heart disease by 2 to 4 times
  • for stroke by 2 to 4 times
  • of men developing lung cancer by 25 times
  • of women developing lung cancer by 25.7 times

A lower percentage of adults smoking is better, of course.

The Details

The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) Survey is a telephone based health survey of adults age 18 and above. Both landline and cell phone users are included. Initiated in 1984 by the CDC, it is now administered nationally, statewide, regionally, and locally. The survey focuses on health care access, health conditions, risk behaviors, and preventive health practices. Standardized questions allow comparison among various population groups. For 2013, Erie County used 3-Year Sum County Level data, for years 2011-2013, which was provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Similar 3-Year Sum data for Pennsylvania was used for comparison.

The Nitty-Gritty Details


This EVS indicator has no subcategories. The raw data for Erie County do provide data for subcategories based on sex, age, education, income, and race.

Peer Areas

The BRFSS data are available for Erie, the state of Pennsylvania, and the United States. Data is also available for the following thirteen of the standard peer selected metropolitan/micropolitan statistical areas (MMSAs): Akron OH, Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton PA-NJ, Boulder CO, Cedar Rapids IA, Flint MI, Gainesville FL, Green Bay WI, Kalamazoo-Portage MI, Lansing-East Lansing MI, Laredo TX, Peoria IL, Roanoke VA, and Spartanburg SC.


Erie County completes a BRFSS every four to five years. The survey is administered every year at the state and national level.


Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Survey, administered by the Erie County Department of Health following guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pennsylvania Department of Health 3-Year Sum County Level data. Links to the data are given above under “All the Nitty-Gritty Details”.

Other Related Data

Additional Studies and Research

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