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Californians Benefit From Dramatic Drop In Heavy Smoking

Audio

Aired 3/15/11

New research from UCSD finds the prevalence of heavy smoking in the United States has declined dramatically over the last four decades. California led the way.

— New research from UCSD finds the prevalence of heavy smoking in the United States declined dramatically over the last four decades. California led the way.

Researchers in 1965 found that 23 percent of Californians smoked a pack or more of cigarettes a day. By 2007, fewer than 3 percent of Californians fell into that category.

The national rate of heavy smoking has also declined, but not quite as drastically.

John Pierce is the director of cancer prevention at the UCSD Moores Cancer Center. He said his research revealed another key finding.

"California lung cancer rates have dropped by 30 percent," Pierce said, "whereas the rest of the country only by 13 percent. And it's coming from the decline in high intensity smoking."

Pierce said the decline is due in part to health warnings and the creation of smoke-free workplaces.

He added higher tobacco taxes have also led to reduced smoking rates, especially among young people.

California's tobacco tax is below the national average. Pierce said if California wants to continue to see its smoking rate decline, it should raise the tax.

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