For those who smoked 10 to 19 cigarettes a day, the prevalence in 1965 was 11.1 percent in California and 10.5 percent in the rest of the country. By 2007, the prevalence in California was 3.4 percent while it was 5.4 percent in the rest of the United States, the researchers noted.
"This decline has not been accompanied by higher rates of lower-intensity smoking," Pierce said. "This decline in intensity of smoking has come about by a major change in the number of young people who have taken up even a half-pack per day habit."
There has also been a major cessation effect, Pierce added.
Danny McGoldrick, vice president for research at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, noted that "California has reduced overall smoking and high-intensity smoking much faster than the rest of the country, and this has led to declines in lung cancer rates that are larger than the rest of the country -- saving lives and health-care dollars."
California has achieved these lifesaving gains because it has put in place those policies and programs proven to reduce tobacco use, including the nation's longest running prevention and cessation program, the nation's first statewide smoke-free law and, in earlier years, higher tobacco taxes, McGoldrick said. "Every state should follow California's example," he said.
However, these gains are in jeopardy, as California has fallen behind its funding of tobacco control programs, McGoldrick said.
"To continue its progress, California must raise its tobacco tax, which has fallen well below the national average, and use some of the new revenue to increase funding for its model prevention and cessation program, which has declined significantly in recent years," McGoldrick said.
Dr. Norman H. Edelman, scientific consultant for the American Lung Association, said that "this is validation of all of our efforts."
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