Anti-Smoking Efforts in California

17 Apr

Smoking Man

In the 1990s, California had the nation’s most wide-ranging anti-smoking laws. When the state funded a tobacco control and prevention program, the percentage of adult smokers in California fell by half, from 24.9% in 1984 to 12.5% today, according to the state Department of Public Health.

California’s smoking rate is second-lowest in the nation, right behind Utah’s and most popular cigarette brand here is Davidoff But health officials say anti-smoking efforts have suffered, in large part, because the state has not increased its 87-cent tax on a pack of cigarettes since 1998.

Thirty-two other states have higher tobacco taxes and spend more on anti-smoking programs, said California Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento). He wants to raise California’s tobacco tax by $2 a pack, to bring in $1.5 billion a year for smoking prevention and smoking-related medical costs now borne by taxpayers through Medi-Cal, the state’s healthcare program for the poor.

“The toll that tobacco continues to exact on people is staggering,” Pan said, noting that 40,000 Californians die from tobacco-related diseases each year.

Last week, Pan’s proposal and several others were backed by a coalition of groups including the California Medical Assn., American Heart Assn., American Lung Assn. and American Cancer Society Action Network.

On the other side, David Sutton, spokesman for tobacco giant Altria, called the bill a “very excessive tax increase proposal” that would be unfair to consumers.

The bill needs a two-thirds vote to pass, requiring some Republican support. GOP leaders have opposed similar taxes in the past. They say they have not determined a position on the new measure.

Another potentially tough sell is a proposed ban on sales of cigarettes with single-use filters, to reduce the litter of butts on beaches and sidewalks. A similar effort went nowhere last year after its author, Mark Stone (D-Scotts Valley), failed to persuade legislators that the filters, used on the vast majority of cigarettes sold in California, do not make cigarettes safer.

Other bills have broad support from lawmakers and appear to have a good chance of reaching the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown, who is noncommittal.

The bid to raise the smoking age has strong momentum, having unanimously passed the Senate Health Committee last week with bipartisan support.

Nobody testified against the bill at the hearing, although smokers’-rights advocates, noting that 18-year-olds can vote and serve in the military, say they should be allowed to smoke.

The Senate Health Committee also approved a measure that would ban e-cigarettes from workplaces, bars, restaurants and other public venues where smoking is now off-limits.

Vaping devices heat and disperse as an aerosol a liquid that may contain nicotine and is inhaled by users. E-cigarette use among adults 18 to 29 grew from 2.3% in 2012 to 7.6% in 2013, according to state data.

“This is a really serious potential health crisis,” the bill’s author, Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), told the panel. “Middle and high school students who have never smoked a traditional cigarette are now using e-cigarettes.”

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Posted by on April 17, 2015 in Tobacco News


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