TUESDAY, March 15 (HealthDay News) -- The number of people who smoke a pack or more a day has dropped significantly in the United States, and perhaps nowhere more than in California, a new study finds.
The number of people smoking less than a pack but at least 10 cigarettes a day has also dropped significantly, added the researchers, who examined national data on smoking rates from 1965 to 2007 to come to their conclusion.
"Public health advocacy can have a major impact on social norms and lead to major changes in population behavior," said lead researcher John P. Pierce, a professor of family and preventive medicine at the University of California San Diego.
In addition, there has been a significant decline in lung cancer rates in California, and those rates will continue to drop faster than in the rest of the country over the next 15 years, he noted.
"The Tobacco Control Program in California has aimed to change social norms in the population, and this has had a major impact," Pierce said. "Such programs need to be disseminated more widely. The change in social norms in California impacted both initiation and cessation."
The report is published in the March 16 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
For the study, Pierce's team collected data on 1,801,529 people who took part in the National Health Interview Surveys, 1965-1994 and the Current Population Survey Tobacco Supplements, 1992-2007.
A total of 139,176 responders were in California, and 1,662,353 were located throughout the rest of the United States.
In 1965, 56 percent of all smokers in the United States smoked a pack (20 cigarettes) a day or more. In California, this represented 23.2 percent of smokers while in the rest of the country the prevalence of heavy smokers was 22.9 percent, the researchers found.
By 2007, this prevalence of heavy smokers
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