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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Tobacco Use In California 1990-1991



This report presents data from a survey of cigarette smoking behaviors and attitudes among Californians conducted between June, 1990 and July, 1991. The prevalence of current smoking among adults in California was 22.2%, with males (25.5%) smoking more than females (19.1%). 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. The decline in prevalence is on track for reaching the goal of a 75% reduction in smoking prevalence by the year 1999.

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

Current smoking prevalence among adolescents aged 12-17 years was 9.3%; little difference in prevalence rates was found between boys and girls.

The prevalence of smoking prior to pregnancy among women who had been pregnant in the last 5 years was 16.1%, and 32.8% of those who did smoke quit before the pregnancy reached term.

Approximately one-half of California smokers made an attempt to quit in the 12 months before the survey. The rate of quit attempts was higher 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 11.3% of those who were smokers one year ago were nonsmokers at the time of the survey. This high rate of failed cessation attempts is most evident for Black males where 60.2% of those who were smoking one year ago attempted to quit, but only 4% were current nonsmokers.

The status and effectiveness of several of the components of the tobacco control campaign were assessed. Among adolescents, 72.6% reported receiving at least one class in school directed at tobacco education.

Among nonsmoking Californians who work indoors, 31.3% reported recent exposure to environmental tobacco smoke at work, but this exposure was substantially lower among the 38.7% of indoor workers who work where there was at least a ban on smoking in the immediate work area. Exposure was further reduced for those workers who work in jurisdictions that have strong ordinances to limit smoking in the workplace. Those who worked in worksites that ban smoking in the work area are less likely to be cigarette smokers, and male smokers who worked where there was a ban on smoking in the work area were more likely to be successful when they attempted to quit. Social pressure not to smoke, as manifested by the reluctance of smokers to smoke when they were the only smoker, was associated with an increased frequency of quit attempts by smokers, particularly female smokers.

Tobacco advertising, particularly the Camel cigarette advertising campaign using cartoon characters, was differentially recognized by younger adolescents. The recognition of cigarette brand advertising was closely related to the brand of cigarettes purchased by adolescent smokers, suggesting that tobacco advertising may promote smoking initiation among adolescents.

Over 60% of adults and two-thirds of adolescents reported exposure to some anti-smoking media message in the 7 days prior to their survey interview. Those who reported exposure to the television spots funded by the tobacco tax revenues were more likely to support anti-tobacco education in schools.

Adolescents reported that tobacco products were readily available, even among those aged 12-14. Small stores were the most common site of purchase of cigarettes for adolescents of all ages, but there was a suggestion that purchases from vending machines were relatively more common among younger adolescents than among older adolescents.

Only 40.4% of those smokers who saw a physician in the last year were advised to quit on the last visit. Advice to quit on the last visit appeared to be associated with both an increased interest in quitting and an increased number of quit attempts.

There was widespread support for taxation to tobacco products. The support for increasing the tax was lower among smokers, but Hispanic smokers were more supportive of increasing the tax than were California smokers as a whole. Black and Hispanic smokers were more strongly supportive of efforts to ban advertising and promotion of tobacco products as well as to restrict 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 the tobacco advertisers.

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