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41% drop in Californians who smoke

April 7, 2009 | 11:33 am

Anti-smoking advocates are celebrating today’s 20th anniversary of California’s groundbreaking tobacco-control effort by releasing a slew of new data showing that cigarette use is continuing its steep decline in the Golden State.

Data released by the state Department of Public Health show that smoking rates among adults have declined 41% since voters approved the California Tobacco Control Program (TobaccoFreeCA.com), which instituted a 25-cent-a-pack tax on cigarettes that has funneled 5 cents a pack to tobacco control.

 In 1988, nearly 23% of the public smoked, compared to 13% last year.

Last year also saw youth smoking decline to 14.6%, one of the lowest rates in the nation, state health officials say.

Meanwhile, telephone calls to the “1 800 No Butts” help line are up 25% over last year, data show. Kimberly Belshé, secretary of California’s Health and Human Services Agency, said in an announcement that authorities estimate the program has over the last two decades saved 1 million lives and $86 billion in healthcare costs.

-- Eric Bailey