Eating in restaurants and traveling on buses, planes and trains was not always a smoke free experience in California.
California was the first state in the nation to ban smoking on trains, planes, buses, public buildings, workplaces, restaurants and bars, and this month the state celebrates the 20th anniversary of those laws.
“California’s successful tobacco control efforts have worked to change the social norms around the use of tobacco to create an environment in which tobacco is less acceptable,” said Kimberly Belshé, secretary of California’s Health and Human Services Agency.
The effort to combat tobacco consumption also serves to teach others about the risks of tobacco use and how to combat them.
“California’s anti-tobacco effort is exemplary both in terms of what it has accomplished in combating tobacco use and in terms of what it can teach as a model for how to address other public health challenges facing California,” Belshé said.
The state continues to fight for tobacco control, and this year implemented a statewide law prohibiting smoking in a moving or parked car when a minor is present.
“California was the early leader in tobacco control efforts, including being the first state to establish a free, telephone counseling program to help people who are ready to quit using tobacco,” said Mark Horton, director of the California Department of Public Health, in a press release. “Today the California Smokers‘ Helpline is receiving a record number of calls, as more and more Californians make the decision to quit.“
It is estimated that the last 20 years of anti-smoking efforts have resulted in more than one million lives saved along with approximately $86 billion dollars in health care costs, according to CDPH data.
Despite the success of California’s anti-smoking laws, some say that there is still work to be done on tobacco control.
“[The anniversary] is for sure a victory that California has shown incredible leadership in terms of tobacco control and setting the example of going smoke free,” said Colleen Stevens, spokesperson for the California Tobacco Control Program. “However, we still have more smokers in California than in any other state.“
There still remain a reported 4 million smokers in the state of California, she said. While tobacco control has seen tremendous success in California, there is still work to be done.
The CTCP uses a portion of the state cigarette tax – 5 cents of each 25 cent cigarette tax – to assist school programs, health departments and the free quitting line, 1-800-NOBUTTS, available to all California citizens, Stevens said.
“Our goal is to have additional successes – we want to make end roads to people who still smoke,” she said. “We know that 70 percent of people who do smoke want to quit.“
The goal of the CTCP is to ultimately provide the necessary resources to help people quit if they want to, she added.
“[California] already has strong secondhand smoke provisions and an environment that promotes quitting smoking,” Stevens said.
CAITLIN COBB can be reached at email@example.com.