California's Leadership in Tobacco Control Results in Lower Lung Cancer Rate

A study led by researchers at the University of California, San Diego shows that California's 40 year-long tobacco control programme has resulted in lung cancer rates that are nearly 25 percent lower than other states.

John P. Pierce discusses how California's 40-year-long tobacco control program resulted in a drop in lung cancer rates compared with other states."The consistency in the trends from cigarette sales and population surveys was reassuring" said John P. Pierce, PhD, Sam M. Walton Professor of Cancer Research in the department of family and preventive medicine at UCSD School of Medicine and director of the Population Sciences Division at Moores UCSD Cancer Center.

"What is really important is that the widening gap in smoking behavior between California and the rest of the nation is replicated in the lung cancer data 16 years later.  There is no other behavior that affects a disease like this."

California established the nation's first comprehensive Tobacco Control Program in 1989.  Subsequently, the rate at which Californians reduced smoking doubled.  Californians now smoke half as many cigarettes as people in the rest of the country (9.3 percent/17.8 percent), and fewer than 10 percent of its population smokes, according to a study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.  The study credits the state's aggressive tax on cigarettes and its decades-long, comprehensive tobacco control program.

However, the research also suggests that because – for the first time in more than 20 years – California has not kept up with the rest of the nation in increasing the price of cigarettes and is being outspent on tobacco control, its lead in lowering cigarette consumption and lung cancer may shrink in the future.

''We expect that the success of the tobacco control program over the last 16 years will translate into a further widening in lung cancer mortality for the short term future,'' explained Pierce.  ''But in the longer term, unless California increases its current tobacco control efforts, it will lose this advantage.''