According to a recent Gallup poll, one in four people judge a person's character because of the unhealthy habit -- even if they are smokers themselves.
In the 1990s, only 14% of people reported having lost respect for smokers. But as the habit has become increasingly marginalized, smokers are at a higher risk of becoming social pariahs.
The number of heavy smokers in the U.S. has dropped substantially -- only 8% of the population smokes 30 or more cigarettes a day in 2010, down from 13% in 2005. But the decline of smokers overall is nowhere near as significant, with a drop from 20.9 percent to 19.3 in the same time frame.
The results of the study did not disclose whether there may be additional variables influencing the social perception of smokers. Marc Lipton, a Maryland-based clinical psychologist, told USA Today that up to 35% of his patients struggling to quit smoking have underlying mental health problems that could be preventing them from kicking the habit. Lipton believes that smokers with untreated anxiety and depression are unlikely to successfully quit until the emotional issues are resolved.
Still, the CDC is confident that smoking rate in the U.S. can continue to decline.
There's a misperception that we've reached an irreducible minimum for smoking rates, and that's very far from the truth,'' Dr. Tim McAfee, director of the CDC Office on Smoking and Health, told The Boston Globe . We know it's possible to drive down tobacco rates substantially more than we have already.''
Most major cities in the U.S. -- and even in Europe -- have cracked down on smoking in restaurants in bars in the last decade. This past May, New York City banned smoking in outdoor public areas -- such as parks, beaches, and pedestrain plazas.
But a month after the ban became official, the Huffington Post reported that only one violation ticket had been issued -- and that person intentionally lit up in the company of Parks Department officers to flaunt the lax enforcement of the smoking ban.