Antismoking Efforts Lead to Lung Cancer Drop
California's lung cancer rates decreased more than five times faster than those in other regions of the country between 1988 and 1997, a success for the state's aggressive antismoking efforts, a new CDC report has found. The Los Angeles Times reports that the study, published today in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, finds that California's rate of lung cancer decreased 14% in this period, compared to a 2.7% drop in eight other states and cities that employed no antismoking campaigns during this period: Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, New Mexico, Utah, Atlanta, Detroit and Seattle-Puget Sound, which make up the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results database (Cimons, Los Angeles Times, 12/1). David Fleming, deputy director of the CDC's office of science and public health, called the study results a "landmark finding." According to the CDC, 85% of lung and bronchial cancers result from cigarette smoking (Kaufman, Washington Post, 12/1). In 1988, California voters passed Proposition 99, raising tobacco taxes by 25 cents per pack and making the state's voters the first to pass such an initiative (Los Angeles Times, 12/1). The price rise decreased cigarette demand, which was also lowered by state antismoking programs such as advertising campaigns, programs to help smokers quit and clean indoor air laws. Since these efforts were introduced in the mid 1980s, per capita cigarette consumption has dropped more than 50%, a decline twice that of the rest of the country (Washington Post, 12/1). The California Department of Health Services estimates that this decline will lead to 3,000-4,000 fewer lung cancer cases and 2,000 fewer deaths in the state this year compared to "if the incidence had remained at 1988 levels." State Health Director Diana Bonta said, "There's no mystery as to why California has witnessed a significant decline ... while other regions nationwide have seen little or no change. Fewer Californians smoke and those who still smoke are smoking less" (Los Angeles Times, 12/1).
The report arrives at a time when many states have either implemented measures similar to California's or are trying to determine how to allocate funds received from the $246 billion 1998 national tobacco settlement (Washington Post,12/1). According to the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Arizona, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts and Oregon have implemented "aggressive and comprehensive tobacco-control programs," which have resulted in "substantial declines in per cigarette consumption and/or changes in the prevalence of adult or youth smoking rates" (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 12/1). The CDC hopes that the study findings will encourage other states to use their tobacco settlement money for antismoking efforts. "People in many states have said to us: 'Prove to me that tobacco reduction programs are effective enough to warrant spending all that money,'" Fleming said, adding, "Well this is the proof." Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, said, "In crude terms, it proves that a decision by state legislatures not to spend money on tobacco prevention condemns thousands of residents to die from lung cancer who don't need to. There are not many decisions that a politician can make that have such a direct impact on the health of constituents." According to the CDC, 15 states so far have made "substantial commitments" to use their settlement money for antismoking efforts, while another 14 have made only "minimal commitments." California, "ironically," has not directed any of its settlement funds towards anti-smoking measures, a decision criticized by antitobacco activists (Washington Post, 12/1).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.