Thursday, July 14, 2011

California's Adult Smoking Rate Falls to 11.9% = A Record Low

Debi Austin started smoking at age 13. By the time she was in college, she smoked three packs a day. Debi was diagnosed with cancer of the larynx at age 42. She underwent successful surgery to remove the tumor, but unfortunately her vocal cords were removed as well. Debi had to learn to speak again. Four years after her surgery, while participating in a Laryngectomee's support group, Debi was approached by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to film an anti-tobacco ad. Debi initially declined, but was eventually motivated to accept because of her desire that her 4-year old niece not follow in her footsteps. Four months after filming the ad and before it aired publically, Debi quit smoking for good

Good for Debi and good for California.

California's numbers are down, but this time it's a good thing. The state's adult smoking rate is at a record low, with just 11.9 percent of adults lighting up.

Smoking rates are down across gender, ethnic and age groups in California -- although men, African-Americans and people age 25 to 44 still have the highest rates in their respective categories.

But the lower adult smoking rate is a milestone for the Golden State.

"We've now reached a 50 percent decline from 1988, when the Tobacco Tax Initiative went into effect," said Colleen Stevens, chief of the Tobacco Control Branch of California's Department of Public Health, referring to adult smokers.

The Tobacco Tax Initiative, also known as Proposition 99, levied a 25-cent tax on every pack of cigarettes sold in California. Part of those taxes funded the state's Tobacco Control Program, which aims to reduce tobacco use and improve the health of every Californian.

The program is entirely paid for by Proposition 99. And as the number of smokers in California has declined, so has its funding. "But, our job is to put ourselves out of business," said Stevens, who has been with Tobacco Control since its start 20 years ago.

She points to the resulting benefits, including programs conducted and supported by these funds saving Californians $86 billion in health care costs.

This is very encouraging. Seeing the number of people smoking here in Indiana, there is much work to do for a healthier America.

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