Highlights new data on illegal sales to minors, tobacco-use trends, advertising tactics

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During a news briefing today, California Department of Public Health (CDPH) director and state health officer Dr. Ron Chapman released the state’s first “State Health Officer’s Report on Tobacco Use and Promotion” providing new data related to cigarette consumption declines, and the millions of dollars and lives saved. The report also includes new data on illegal sales to minors, the disproportionate number of tobacco retailers and advertising in minority and low-income neighborhoods, the effect of tobacco advertising in retail stores, and troubling tobacco-use trends.

“The illegal sale of tobacco to minors is a serious issue and we are committed to working with retailers and inform the public in order to stop these practices,” said Chapman. “The tobacco industry’s advertising tactics towards a younger audience is disturbing and shameful. It is startling that the tobacco industry spends nearly $1 million every hour to market their products nationwide.”

Although not necessarily a trend, the increase in illegal sales to minors is a fact that CDPH takes seriously. The Department is concerned about any increase of youth access to cigarettes and aims to prevent any uptick in youth smoking. CDPH continues to find innovative ways to work with retailers and to inform the public to stop these practices.

In addition to the latest data on illegal sales to minors, the state report draws attention to the disproportionate number of tobacco retailers, advertising tactics, the effect of tobacco advertising in retail stores, and examples of emerging tobacco use.

Highlights of the report include:

  • Since the inception of the Tobacco Control Program, the annual number of cigarette packs sold in California dropped by more than 1.5 billion per year, from 2.5 billion packs in 1998 to 972,000 packs in 2011;
  • Illegal tobacco sales to minors rose to 8.7 percent from 5.6 percent in 2011, which was the state’s lowest rate since the survey began in 1995;
  • Prevalence of smoking was higher at schools in neighborhoods with five or more stores that sell tobacco than at schools in neighborhoods without any stores that sell tobacco;
  • In 2011, young adults 18-24 had the highest smoking prevalence amongy any age group in California;
  • The popularity, promotion and availability of smokeless tobacco have greatly increased – examples include snus (a smokeless, spitless, moist-snuff product), cigarillos (small flavored cigars that are often sold individually), as well as dissolvable and flavored “orbs” and “sticks” that are currently being test-marketed in other states;
  • In less than a decade, sales of smokeless products have nearly tripled, from $77 million in 2001 to $211 million in 2011; and
  • Nearly one-third (32.3 percent) of California stores that sell tobacco had at least one cigarette advertisement less than three feet above the floor, where it is easily seen by children.

“In 2012, smoking and the use of other tobacco products continues to be a major public health concern in California, with approximately 3.6 million smokers in the state,” added Chapman. “More than 34,000 deaths from tobacco-related illnesses occur every year, and the cost of adult health care related to smoking in California is projected to be $6.5 billion this year, about $400 per taxpayer. The most cost-effective way to decrease health care costs is to encourage and support tobacco cessation. I strongly urge all Californians who still smoke to quit.”

Chapman also unveiled new ethnic-market advertisements that will continue to educate Californians on the harmful effects of tobacco use. In addition to the ads, a new Spanish website, CAsinTabaco, was launched to complement the campaign and to provide the Spanish-speaking community the tools they need to quit. Ads will start airing in early January and can be viewed at TobaccoFreeCA.

The California Tobacco Control Program was established by the Tobacco Tax and Health Protection Act of 1988. The act, approved by California voters, instituted a 25-cent tax on each pack of cigarettes and earmarked five cents of that tax to fund California’s tobacco control efforts. These efforts include supporting local health departments and community organizations, an aggressive media campaign, and tobacco-related evaluation and surveillance. California’s comprehensive approach has changed social norms around tobacco-use and secondhand smoke, resulting in dramatic results. It is estimated California’s tobacco control efforts have saved more than one million lives and have resulted in $86 billion worth of savings in health care costs. Learn more at TobaccoFreeCA, and learn more about today’s report in the CDPH Virtual Press Kit.