Report Finds Decreased Smoking Rates Since 1988 State Cigarette Tax Increase
Smoking in the state has "plummeted" since 1988, when voters passed a measure increasing state taxes on cigarettes by 25 cents per pack to help fund antismoking campaigns, according to a report released Tuesday by the Health and Human Services Agency, the Los Angeles Times reports. HHSA Secretary Kim Belshe said radio and television advertisements, combined with state and local laws banning smoking in offices and other public areas, have helped reduce the state's smoking rate by nearly half since 1985. According to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, there are five million smokers in the state, 437,000 of whom are teenagers.
According to the report:
- Overall annual sales of cigarettes have decreased from 113 packs per person in 1988 to 46 in 2004;
- The proportion of middle school students who smoke decreased from 6.7% in 2000 to 3.9% last year;
- The percentage of high school students who smoke decreased from 22% in 2000 to 13% in 2004 (Bernstein, Los Angeles Times, 1/26);
- The proportion of adults who smoke decreased between 1988 and 2003 from 23% to 16%, "one of the country's lowest rates," USA Today reports;
- More than 90% of children in the state live in smoke-free households; and
- The incidence of seven tobacco-related cancers -- lung, bronchus, esophagus, larynx, bladder, kidney and pancreas -- is decreasing at faster rates in California than in the rest of the nation (Szabo, USA Today, 1/26).
According to the Times, state officials "celebrated" the state's reported successes "while seeking to play down their cuts in the money for antismoking programs."
In fiscal year 2004-2005, California will spend about $77.2 million on antitobacco efforts, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) has proposed reducing the amount in FY 2005-2006 to $76.7 million. The state in FY 1989-1990 spent $152 million on antitobacco efforts; federal health officials recommend that California spend $165 million annually on such programs.
According to state records, the tobacco industry in 2002 outspent the state in marketing by a 16-to-1 ratio, spending $57.95 per resident, compared with $3.55 per resident spent by the state.
Belshe said that despite funding reductions, California spends more than any other state on antismoking campaigns, and she noted that decreased funding reflects the program's success because it shows the state is collecting less revenue through cigarette taxes.
"We're really proud of what's going on in California," Belshe said, adding, "The incidence of lung cancer in California is declining at three times the rate of the rest of the country."
David Burns, a professor at the University of California-San Diego School of Medicine, said, "The program has been enormously effective," adding, "But when you look back over periods of time, when the (funding) was reduced, the benefits of the program were also reduced."
Matthew Meyers, president of CTFK, said that smoking rates increased dramatically the last time the state reduced spending on antitobacco programs -- from 1993 to 1996 -- and added, "Those of us who have been tracking California for the past couple of years have been deeply concerned."
Terry Pechacek, associate director of CDC's Office on Smoking and Health, said, "California is unable to adequately fund their (antismoking) marketing campaign. They don't have enough money to fully fund their media campaign at levels that our science-based recommendations say would be most effective." Pechacek added that although the state has made positive progress and implemented programs that should serve as models for other states, those gains could easily reverse if spending continues to decrease (Los Angeles Times, 1/26).