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Smoking prevalence in urban and rural populations: findings from California between 2001 and 2012



Tobacco smoking and related health problems are still major public health concerns in the United States despite the declining smoking prevalence.


This study explored differences in smoking prevalence between urban and rural areas potentially relevant to tobacco control efforts in California.


Public use adult smoking data from the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS) between 2001 and 2011-2012 were analyzed. A total of 282 931 adults were surveyed across the six CHIS cycles. A ZIP code-based geographic classification (Urban, Second-City, Suburban, and Town/Rural) was used to examine the association between smoking prevalence and area of residency.


The overall smoking prevalence in California decreased from 17.0% in 2001 to 13.8% in 2011-2012. Within each CHIS cycle, the Town/Rural areas had the highest smoking prevalence, followed by Urban and Second-City areas, and Suburban areas had the lowest. Pooled data from all CHIS cycles showed a similar pattern, with rates in Urban, Second-City, Suburban and Town/Rural areas being 15.2%, 15.2%, 13.1% and 17.3%, respectively. Weighted multivariate logistic regression analysis indicated significantly higher odds of smoking in Urban, Second-City and Town/Rural areas compared to Suburban areas (all adjusted odds ratios > 1.10), although this trend varied by race/ethnicity, being present in non-Hispanic Whites and not present in Hispanics.


Town/Rural and Urban populations of California are consistently at higher risk of smoking than Suburban populations. These results indicate a need for population-specific tobacco control approaches that address the lifestyle, behavior, and education of disparate populations within the same state or region.

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