It appears that new smoking laws have aided in the dramatic decrease in American's smoking habits today compared to the 1960's according to a new report. Those persons smoking a pack a day plummeted and there was also a decrease in the prevalence of smoking 10 or more cigarettes a day. California saw the largest change.

California has consistently led the United States in using public policies to reduce cigarette smoking, and there were faster declines in smoking prevalence in California compared with the remaining United States, as well as in lung cancer rates.

Thirty years ago, California began the fight to squelch tobacco use in their state, and in January the Golden State newly launched ads to also draw focus on smoking's environmental side effects and of toxic tobacco waste. The themes of the new ads include an awareness of progress California has made to date combating big tobacco, the challenges and importance of quitting smoking and bringing tricky marketing ploys front and center to the public's awareness lens.

John P. Pierce, Ph.D., of the University of California San Diego, La Jolla, and colleagues examined trends in smoking intensity for both California and the remaining United States using two large population-based surveys with state estimates. They found that in 1965, the prevalence of high intensity (20 or more cigarettes per day) of smoking among California adults did not differ from the remaining United States; prevalence of high-intensity smoking in California was 23.2% compared with 22.9% in the remaining United States, and these smokers represented 56% of all smokers.

By 2007, this prevalence was 2.6% or 23% of smokers in California and 7.2% or 40% of smokers in the remaining United States.

The study authors further explain:

"Among individuals (U.S. residents excluding California) born between 1920-1929, the prevalence of moderate/high-intensity smoking was 40.5% in 1965. Moderate/high-intensity smoking declined across successive birth cohorts, and for the 1970-1979 birth cohort, the highest rate of moderate/high-intensity smoking was 9.7% in California and 18.3% in the remaining United States. There was a marked decline in moderate/high-intensity smoking at older ages in all cohorts, but this was greater in California. By age 35 years, the prevalence of moderate/high-intensity smoking in the 1970-1979 birth cohort was 4.6% in California and 13.5% in the remaining United States."

The researchers confirm that one of the reasons why the decline in moderate-intensity smoking has been greater in California than in the remaining United States is its comprehensive tobacco control programs.

They continue:

"In summary, over the past 40 years patterns of smoking have changed dramatically in the United States and reflect both reduced initiation and increased cessation. Among younger birth cohorts, only a small minority of the population is expected to ever attain cigarette consumption levels of even 10 or more cigarettes per day. Further study of these changes in the intensity of smoking patterns should assess the relative importance of changes in initiation, cessation, and reduced consumption in the documented decline of health consequences of smoking in the United States."

These trends highlight the successes of California's Tobacco Control Program over the years and challenges that still lie on the horizon. 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.

Fiscally, $86 billion dollars in health care costs have been saved in the state alone, and lung cancer is declining more than three times faster in California than in the rest of the nation.

Source: Journal of the American Medical Association

Written by Sy Kraft, B.A.