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Monday, March 28, 2011

California Smoking Rate Decline


Cigarettes, by most accounts, are a terrible habit that can be extremely bad for one's health in a number of ways. Across the country groups and individuals work hard to get the message that "cigarettes are bad for you" across to our nation's youth. While a number of attempts have failed at reaching smokers and potential smokers, there are some states that are succeeding at lowering smoking rates which ultimately saves lives. According to researchers, California leads the nation when it comes to the amount of people quitting smoking state wide. The success has been mostly attributed to California's strict tobacco policies which work to deter smoking around every corner.

Smoking data between the years 1965 and 2007 was reviewed by the research team and compared how patterns in smoking changed over time and by age. According to the study abstract, data from the National Health Interview Surveys, 1965-1994, and from the Current Population Survey Tobacco Supplements, 1992-2007 were analyzed. Researchers compared 139,176 Californians with 1,662,353 respondents from other states. The smokers were divided into three categories: high-intensity, consuming 20 or more cigarettes a day; moderate-to-high-intensity, smoking 10-19 cigarettes a day; and low-intensity, smoking 0-9 a day. Smoking rates in the low-intensity group was fairly constant in either California or the United States: California started at 7.1 percent in 1965, the rest of the U.S. started at 7.0 percent - and both fell to 5.3 percent by 2007.

The story was not the same for high-intensity smokers, by 2007, California's high-intensity smoking rate dropped to just over one-tenth of its 1965 rate, whereas high-intensity smoking rates in the United States only fell to about one-third since 1965. Nearly a quarter of California's adults (23.2 percent) smoked 20 or more cigarettes a day in 1965, compared with 22.9 percent in the rest of the nation. As of 2007, only 2.6 percent of adults in California smoked 20 or more a day, while 7.2 percent of the remainder of the U.S. did. Between 1965 and 2007, the mid-range smoking rate in California dropped from 11.1 percent to 3.4 percent, but the fall was not as great across the rest of the country, dropping from 10.5 percent to 5.4 percent.

So what accounts for California's success?

"In 1968, California was the first state to aggressively raise its cigarette tax ... [and] the first state to introduce an ongoing, well-funded comprehensive tobacco control program, which has been in place since 1989," the authors of the study wrote. "Ordinances restricting cigarette smoking in the workplace were first introduced in California in 1976 and increased rapidly throughout the 1980s." Lung cancer takes fewer lives in California than anywhere else in the country. Reaching a high of 109 deaths for every 100,000 people in 1987, California's lung cancer rates dropped to 77 per 100,000 people by 2007, while they remained at 102 deaths per 100,000 in the remainder of the country.

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