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California Smoking Rates Drop 33 Percent Since State’s Anti-Tobacco Program Began; Largest Smoking Decline Reported by Females


SACRAMENTO, Calif.--April 20, 2005--California’s adult smoking rate dropped to a historic low of 15.4 percent in 2004, a 32.5 percent decrease since 1988, when California voters passed Proposition 99, the landmark initiative that established the state’s anti-tobacco program, State Public Health Officer Dr. Richard J. Jackson announced today.

“Every year, more Californians are making the commitment to live tobacco-free,” said Jackson. “Our messages about the dangers of tobacco use, secondhand smoke and the tobacco industry’s misleading marketing practices are resonating with all Californians.”

According to the California Department of Health Services, the state’s latest survey shows the adult smoking prevalence rate was 15.4 percent last year, compared with 22.8 percent in 1988. Smoking among California females has dropped 41 percent, from 20.5 in 1988 to 12.1 percent in 2004. Among California males, smoking has dropped 25 percent, from 25.1 percent in 1988 to 18.7 percent in 2004.

State health officials credit California’s smoke-free policies, comprehensive local and school-based tobacco education programs, aggressive media campaign and increased tobacco taxes as key factors in the unprecedented statewide smoking reductions.

“The decrease in smoking rates is having a profound effect on the health of Californians,” said Jackson. “As a result of fewer Californians smoking, rates of cancer of the lung or bronchus in California are going down at three times the rate of the rest of the country.”

Although smoking has declined among all age groups, 18 to 24 year olds continue to have the highest smoking rate of any age group in California. The smoking rate among this age group was 18.3 percent in 2004, down from 22.2 percent in 2003.

Data released earlier this year show California youth also are smoking at historic lows. According to the 2004 California Student Tobacco Survey, 13.2 percent of the state’s high school students smoked last year, which is 41 percent lower than the national rate of 22.3.

Among middle school students in grades six through eight, 3.9 percent reported smoking last year, which is 52 percent lower than the national rate of 8.1 in 2004.

“California’s youth are choosing tobacco-free lifestyles because smoking is no longer seen as a social norm in this state and is no longer tolerated in public places,” said State Health Director Sandra Shewry. “We have smoke-free restaurants, shopping malls, schools, playgrounds, parks and beaches. We have created a healthier California.”

Added Jackson, “Despite these vast reductions in smoking, the battle against this very dangerous addiction must continue. There are nearly four million Californians who still smoke and thousands of teenagers who start smoking every year. As long as tobacco products are sold, California must continue its anti-tobacco programs to educate people about the dangers of smoking, the hazards of secondhand smoke and the marketing tactics of the tobacco industry.”

In November 1988, Proposition 99 was approved by California voters, instituting a 25-cent tax on cigarettes and earmarking 5 cents of every cigarette pack sold to fund the California Tobacco Control Program, the nation’s longest running and most emulated anti-tobacco program.


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