Antismoking Campaign Effective at Cutting Heart Disease, Study Says
California's "aggressive" antismoking campaign prevented 33,000 Californians from dying of heart disease during its first nine years, according to a new University of California-San Francisco study, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that while better treatments have helped reduce heart disease deaths nationwide, California's decrease has been "steeper" than the national average. Quitting smoking can cut the risk of a heart attack in half after the first year, the Chronicle reports. Since the 1988 implementation of the state's antismoking campaign -- which includes a 25 cent-per-pack cigarette tax and a $1 billion antitobacco advertising and community campaign -- smoking rates in California have dropped from 22.4% in 1988 to 18% in 1997. This decrease, "far greater" than that of the rest of the country, resulted in a 50% cut in cigarette sales per person. UCSF Professor Stanton Glantz, an antitobacco activist and one of the study's authors, said, "The good news here is that large, aggressive tobacco control programs directed at the general public can show large and immediate benefits by saving lives." The study also found that cuts to the antitobacco campaign in the early 1990s resulted in 8,300 heart disease deaths that "would have otherwise" not occurred. Antitobacco activists have pointed to the new findings as evidence that state officials should pump more money into the antismoking campaign, which has suffered a loss of revenue due to declining cigarette sales. Some health groups are also urging Gov. Gray Davis (D) to allocate some of the money from the state's tobacco settlement to the campaign. Kurt Kleinschmidt of the American Heart Association said, "We're outraged that they're getting $500 million in the tobacco settlement and not a dime of it is going for tobacco prevention. We're not going to see these kinds of results in the future if we don't bump up the funding." Earlier this month, a CDC study found that California's antismoking campaign led to a 14% decrease in lung cancer in the state from 1988 to 1997 (Torassa, San Francisco Chronicle, 12/14).
Becoming the first of its kind in the United States, a California lawsuit "attacking" tobacco marketing efforts aimed at teens has attained class-action status, which may allow over a million smokers to join the case, the AP/Contra Costa Times reports. The $682 million lawsuit charges four tobacco companies -- R.J. Reynolds, Lorillard Tobacco Co., Brown & Williamson and Philip Morris -- with violating the state's consumer protection laws by targeting teens with their marketing campaigns. The companies should "forfeit" profits earned from California minors between April 1994 and December 1999, the lawsuit states. The lawsuit aims to halt tobacco advertising targeted toward minors and also seeks to stop some promotional practices, such as placing cigarettes on store countertops. Philip Morris officials said Superior Court Judge Ronald Prager's decision to change the status of the case could create "an unmanageable case and a chaotic situation." Joe Escher, an attorney for R.J. Reynolds, called Prager's decision "idiosyncratic" and predicted it would be reversed. Plaintiff Daimon Fullerton, however, "cheered" the ruling as a "strong step" toward stopping tobacco companies from marketing to teens. The suit's class-action status means that lawyers for the two sides must now agree on how to notify an estimated 1.5 million eligible smokers on how to join the case. Prager will hear the suit on Jan. 11 (Morgante, AP/Contra Costa Times, 12/14).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.