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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Tobacco Use in California 1990: A Preliminary Report Documenting the Decline of Tobacco Use



This report presents data on a partial sample of a survey of cigarette smoking behaviors and attitudes among Californians conducted during the summer of 1990. The prevalence of current smoking among adults in California is 21.2% with males (23.8%) smoking more than females (18.8%). This represents a sharp decline in smoking following the increase in the tobacco excise tax and implementation of a comprehensive tobacco control program by the State of California, and is on track for reaching the goal of a 75% reduction in smoking prevalence by the year 1999.

Black Californians are more likely to be cigarette smokers than other racial or ethnic groups, and Hispanic and Asian/Pacific Islander women are less likely to be cigarette smokers. Smoking prevalence is also lower among those who have completed more years of formal education and among those who are over the age of 65 years.

Current smoking prevalence among adolescents aged 12-17 years is 10.4%; little difference in prevalence rates is found between boys and girls.

The prevalence of smoking prior to pregnancy among women who have been pregnant in the last 5 years was 15.7%, and 36% quit before the pregnancy reached term.

Among the counties and regions, there are only modest differences in the observed prevalence of smoking, but there is a somewhat greater observed difference in the fraction of those smokers who have quit in the last 5 years.

Approximately one-half of California’s smokers made an attempt to quit in the 12 months before the survey, in contrast to one-third of smokers nationally. The rate of quit attempts was highest among black smokers of both sexes and among Hispanic males. However, California smokers were unable to translate their high rate of cessation attempts into successful cessation. Only 11.7% of those who were smokers one year ago are currently nonsmokers. This high rate of failed cessation attempts is most evident for black males where 72% of those who were smoking one year ago attempted to quit but only 3.6% are currently nonsmokers.

The hazard of smoking is widely acknowledged; 84% of California smokers agree that smoking harms their own health. This acknowledgement is, if anything, somewhat stronger among black and Hispanic smokers, suggesting that informational campaigns have been successful but have not translated into successful cessation, particularly for black male smokers.

There is widespread support for taxation of tobacco products: 49.5% of Californian adults support a further increase in the current tax and only 15.9% want to reduce the tax. The support for increasing the tax is lower among smokers, but black and Hispanic smokers are substantially more supportive of increasing the tax than are California smokers as a whole. Black and Hispanic smokers are also more strongly supportive of efforts to ban the advertising and promotion of tobacco products as well as to restrict the access of children to tobacco products. This picture is consistent with a substantial level of concern in the black and Hispanic communities about the targeting of their communities by tobacco advertisers.

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