Fewer Californians dying of smoking-related diseases
SAN FRANCISCO -- May 23, 2001 -- The results of a new study show that fewer Californians than had been expected are dying from lung cancer and other lung diseases as a result of the state's strong measures taken to curb smoking.
California laws regarding public smoking are among the toughest in the nation, and now a study by a research team led by Dr. Bruce Leistikow at the University of California at Davis show the state's efforts to reduce smoking are paying off.
"We know that stopping smoking will decrease the death and widowhood rates from cancer as well as from heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and some injuries," said Leistikow in a press release.
"Many people did not realize that those benefits would arrive this soon. But now we have a body count for this phenomenon -- we can point to lives lost from continued smoking and lives saved by reducing smoking in California," said Leistikow, an adjunct associate professor of epidemiology and preventive medicine.
A sharp decline in Californians who smoke began after Prop. 99 went into effect Jan. 1, 1989, which increased taxes on cigarettes by 25 cents a pack to pay for anti-smoking advertising and smoking cessation programs.
From 1988 to 1997, the prevalence of smoking in California dropped by 27 percent and the number of cigarettes consumed dropped by almost half. An estimated 18 percent of Californians now smoke at least occasionally, down from 23 percent in 1988.
Leistikow's team presented their findings at the annual meeting of the American Thoracic Society International Conference here earlier this week. They studied health, social and cost-reduction benefits in California resulting from reduced cigarette smoking.
They found that between 1988 and 1997, lung cancer death rates in California fell from 9 percent below the average for the rest of the nation to 19 percent below the national average. In that same period, Californiaâ€™s death rates from COPD, a dangerous and debilitating combination of emphysema, chronic bronchitis and asthma sometimes called "smokerâ€™s lung," fell from 15 percent above the average for other states to 1 percent below.
The researchers compared California's reductions to other states and analyzed data for cigarette use and deaths from lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Based on these reductions, Leistikow estimates about 20,000 Californians avoided premature death from lung cancer and COPD because of reductions in smoking,.
If the rest of the country had reduced smoking as drastically as California, some 140,000 premature deaths from lung cancer and lung disease would most likely have been spared between 1988 and 1997, said Leistikow. Another 70,000 early widowhoods would also have been avoided.
"Lung cancer rates in California were similar to those in the rest of the United States before 1988," Leistikow said. "After Prop. 99 passed, a significant gap emerged. The quick ticket to reducing lung cancer and chronic lung disease is reducing smoking. Itâ€™s clearly an intervention that saves lives."