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Tobacco study: Quitting really does lower lung cancer risk


November 30, 2000
Web posted at: 4:47 p.m. EST (2147 GMT)

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Every year, more Californians are learning that it's a bad idea to smoke. And a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that it's paying off in lower rates of lung cancer.

"This is very exciting," said Dr. David Fleming, deputy director for science and public health at the CDC. "It shows that when the public pays attention and chooses to invest resources in smoking prevention, those efforts pay off -- not only in decreased use of tobacco, but in decreased disease."

Studying data from 1988 through 1997, CDC investigators found that the rate of lung and bronchial cancers fell faster in California than elsewhere in the country. Compared to an overall drop of 2 percent in five other states and three metropolitan areas, research showed a 14 percent decrease in lung cancers among Californians.


"That drop in lung cancer is linked to the fact that cigarette consumption in California has dropped 50 percent," Fleming said. "What we're seeing is the first disease reduction resulting from California's comprehensive tobacco prevention efforts."

In the past 10 years, California has spent some $634 million -- in part funded by a 25-cent increase in cigarette taxes instituted in 1989 -- on tobacco use-reduction efforts. These efforts include an aggressive campaign of public education, clean-indoor laws and community-based support for smoking cessation programs.

In 1999, cigarette consumption in California was measured at about 61 packs per capita. Nationwide, consumption is at nearly 107 packs a person. More recent statistics from the California Department of Health Services show the decline in lung cancers continued beyond the CDC's study period.

From 1997 to 1998, the rate of lung cancer decreased from 60.1 cases to 57.6 cases per 100,000 residents.

"There is no mystery as to why California has witnessed a significant decline in the incidence of lung and bronchus cancers while other regions nationwide have seen little or no change," department director Diana M. Bonta said in a statement. "We must continue these programs in full force to effectively counter the tobacco industry's aggressive marketing of tobacco in California, and help those who use tobacco products to break the chains of their addiction."

About 90 percent of lung cancers are caused by tobacco use, said Fleming.

Another interesting CDC finding is that while lung cancer rates are declining in the nation as a whole, they are increasing among women.

"Lung cancer in women in this country is really epidemic because women started using tobacco later in the 20th century than men did. We're still seeing the results," Fleming said. "In California, rates among women dropped almost 5 percent. But in the rest of the country, they went up 13 percent."

In addition to California, other data studied came from Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, New Mexico and Utah, and the cities of Atlanta, Georgia; Detroit, Michigan; and the Seattle-Puget Sound area of Washington.

"California has been a leader in this area," said Fleming. "It shows what can happen when you choose to invest resources in tobacco reduction."

The study "may help other states that have been ambivalent" about anti-smoking education, he said.

Other studies are ongoing concerning the ways tobacco-reduction efforts may have impacted other smoking-related illnesses such as heart disease, Fleming added.

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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Tobacco health information
California Department of Health Services
American Lung Association
American Cancer Society
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