A recent report from researchers at the University of California at San Diego has revealed that the habit of smoking at least one pack (20 cigarettes) a day has severely declined over the last fifty years. Investigators observed that the rate of decline was particularly noteworthy in California, where lung cancer rates also fell in proportion to the reduction in smoking rates. The data and the corresponding interpretation of the study were printed in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s March 2011 issue.
The UCSD study showed how much smoking has declined since the early 1960s. According to reports, more than fifty percent of all adult smokers in the US smoked at least one pack per day. That number fell to just over forty percent by 2007. “Moderate” smoking (10 to 20 cigarettes a day) rates also fell. In California, the number of moderate smokers fell from 11.1 percent of all adults in 1965, down to 3.4 percent in 2007. In other states, the number fell from 10.5 percent of all adults down to 5.4 percent.
The study credits much of the decline to smoking education programs. In 1964, the US Surgeon General released the first major findings on the correlation between cigarette smoking and lung cancer. Two years later, the Food and Drug Administration required mandatory warning labels on all cigarette packaging. Today, most cigarette packs and cartons carry warning labels, including warnings about how smoking can complicate pregnancy and lead to low birth rates in pregnant women who smoke.
Another factor attributed to the reduction in smoking rates is the development in new technologies to combat nicotine addiction. One of the primary reasons that smokers find quitting so difficult is the intense nicotine addiction that smoking brings. The invention of nicotine patches, lozenges and gums as part of a smoking cessation program has helped millions of smokers quit the habit over the last twenty years.
In addition to federal mandates requiring the addition of warning labels to cigarette packaging, many state and municipal jurisdictions created anti-smoking laws and ordinances. Several states added higher taxes to cigarettes, with California among the first to enact such statutes. Also, many cities passed local laws prohibiting smoking in bars, restaurants and public buildings.
Public awareness campaigns, such as those conducted by the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association and the American Cancer Society, also helped bring the issues of cigarette smoking to the attention of the American public. The campaigns highlighted many of the dangers that surround cigarette smoking, including lung cancer, throat cancer and emphysema.
As California took the lead in many of the anti-smoking efforts, the study also showed how lung cancer incidence rates declined in the state well before other states saw the same results. Deaths from lung cancer peaked in 1987 in California, with 109 per 100,000. The death rate fell to 77 per 100,000 in 2007. In other states, the lung cancer death rate peaked in 1993 at 117 per 100,000 and fell to 102 per 100,000 in 2007.