State lung cancer rates largest drop in nation

The Associated Press
Saturday December 02, 2000

SACRAMENTO — California’s tough anti-smoking measures and public health campaigns have resulted in a 14 percent decrease in lung cancer over the past 10 years, the government reported Thursday. 

Other regions of the country reported only a 2.7 percent decrease over the same period, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. 

“Based on the California experience, we would hope to see similar effects in other states using similar programs,” said Dr. Terry Pechacek, CDC associate director for science and public health. 

Lung cancer develops slowly and the full benefits of quitting can take up to 15 years to be realized. However, Pechacek said, researchers can start seeing some results within five years. 

Smoking rates in California began dropping in the late 1980s, helped in part by Proposition 99 in 1988. The voter-approved measure added a 25-cent-per-pack tax on tobacco products that paid for anti-smoking and education programs. Local governments also began restricting smoking in public buildings and workplaces. 

Two years ago, voters bumped the price of cigarettes an additional 50 cents per pack, money also earmarked for education. And this year alone, the state will spend $136 million on smoking prevention, cessation and research – some $45 million of it on anti-tobacco advertising. 

“California has the most comprehensive program for protecting nonsmokers from secondhand smoke,” said Ken August, spokesman for the state health department. “Restaurants, bars and almost all indoor workplaces are smoke-free.” 

The effect of the anti-tobacco efforts has been fewer smokers and fewer deadly cases of cancer related to smoking, health officials said. August and Pechacek both said they expect the trend to continue. August said that means there will be up to 4,000 fewer lung cancer cases in California this year and about 2,000 fewer deaths. 

In its report, the CDC compared cancer registries in California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, New Mexico and Utah, as well as Seattle, Atlanta and Detroit. In 1988, the lung cancer rate in California was 72 cases per 100,000 people, slightly higher than that of the other regions studied.  

By 1997, California’s rate had dropped to about 60 per 100,000. 

The CDC averages the statistics for the first two years and the last two years studied to arrive at an accurate representation, health officials said. The numbers the CDC used were 71.9 for 1988 and 70.3 for 1989, averaging to 71.1; and 62.2 for 1996 and 60.1 for 1997, averaging to 61.15. That computes to a 14 percent drop in lung cancer cases. 

While lung cancer rates for women in the other regions rose 13 percent, the rate for California women dropped 4.8 percent. Among California men, lung cancer rates dropped 23 percent, compared with a 13 percent drop among men elsewhere. 

Dr. David Burns, a volunteer with the American Lung Association in California, said: “This is an accomplishment of Proposition 99 money being invested wisely by the state to help people change their smoking behavior.” 



The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta released a study of lung cancer rates in California from 1988 until 1997. The study compared cancer data in California to statistics in five states – Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, New Mexico and Utah – and three cities, Seattle, Detroit and Atlanta: 

• California saw a 14 percent drop in lung cancer cases, while other regions studied showed a 2.7 percent decrease in lung cancer rates. 

• Lung cancer rates among women increased by 13 percent in the other regions, but in California that figure dropped by 4.8 percent. 

• Among men, the rate in California dropped by 23 percent, compared to a 13 percent drop among men in other regions. 

• California will spend $136 million on smoking prevention, cessation and research this year, including $45 million for anti-tobacco television, magazine and radio ads. 

• State health officials say there will be up to 4,000 fewer lung cancer cases and about 2,000 fewer deaths this year due to the decrease in smoking in California. 


On the Net: 

CDC: http://www.cdc.gov 

California health services agency: http://www.dhs.cahwnet.gov