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Fewer choosing to smoke in California
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The number of people opting to light up cigarettes in California has reached an all-time low, according to a public health report released Wednesday.

The centers for Disease Control’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System established that 11.9 percent of adults in California identified themselves as smokers in 2010. That number is down from 13.1 percent in 2009 and puts California as one of only two states to reach the federal Healthy People 2020 target of reducing the adult smoking prevalence rate to 12 percent.

“The drop in smoking means that fewer people will see their lives cut short by tobacco,” said California Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ron Chapman. “Since the inception of California’s tobacco education efforts in 1990, we have witnessed declines in lung cancer, heart disease and other tobacco-related illnesses.”

The 11.9 percent is a dramatic decrease when compared to the statistics of the 1980s, when an average of 24.7 percent of adults in the state smoked. In the 1990s the average fell to 18.5 percent.

The rate of smokers also dropped among minors as well. Smoking among high school students decreased from 14.6 percent in 2008 to 13.8 percent in 2010, while middle school student smoking decreased from 6.0 percent in 2008 to 4.8 percent in 2010 according to the in-school California Student Tobacco Survey that is fielded biennially.

Although men continue to smoke at higher rates than women – 14.4 percent and 9.4 percent respectively – both groups have shown declines since 2009 when 15.6 percent of men and 10.7 percent of women smoked. In addition, smoking rates declined among all age groups.

The most significant decrease occurred among adults ages 25 to 44, which fell from 15.2 percent in 2009 to 13.1 percent in 2010. Among 18 to 24 years old, smoking rates dropped from 13.7 percent in 2009 to 12.3 percent in 2010. In the 45 to 64 years old range the rate in 2010 was 12.5 percent, down from 13.2 percent the year before. For individuals 65 years and older the decline was smaller, falling from 6.8 percent in 2009 to 6.7 percent in 2010.

The California Tobacco Control Program was established by the Tobacco Tax and Health Promotion Act of 1988. The act, which was approved by California voters, instituted a 25-cent tax on each pack of cigarettes and earmarked 5 cents of that tax to fund California’s tobacco control efforts. These efforts include funding local health departments and community organizations, an aggressive media campaign and tobacco-related evaluation and surveillance.

It is estimated California’s tobacco control efforts have saved more than 1 million lives and have resulted in $86 billion worth of savings in health care costs, according to the public health department.

“While we take great pride in seeing smoking decrease nearly 10 percent in just one year, smoking remains the number one preventable cause of death and disease, killing more than 400,000 Americans each year,” Chapman said.

To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.