California’s numbers are down, but this time it’s a good thing. The state’s adult smoking rate is at a record low, with just 11.9 percent of adults lighting up.
Smoking rates are down across gender, ethnic and age groups in California — although men, African-Americans and people age 25 to 44 still have the highest rates in their respective categories.
But the lower adult smoking rate is a milestone for the Golden State.
“We’ve now reached a 50 percent decline from 1988, when the Tobacco Tax Initiative went into effect,” said Colleen Stevens, chief of the Tobacco Control Branch of California’s Department of Public Health, referring to adult smokers.
The Tobacco Tax Initiative, also known as Proposition 99, levied a 25-cent tax on every pack of cigarettes sold in California. Part of those taxes funded the state’s Tobacco Control Program, which aims to reduce tobacco use and improve the health of every Californian.
The program is entirely paid for by Proposition 99. And as the number of smokers in California has declined, so has its funding. “But, our job is to put ourselves out of business,” said Stevens, who has been with Tobacco Control since its start 20 years ago.
She points to the resulting benefits, including programs conducted and supported by these funds saving Californians $86 billion in health care costs.