Who Smokes in California?

The adult cigarette smoking rate in California has declined by 57.4% between 1988 (the year the CA Tobacco Control program was started) and 2017, with a current rate of 10.4 percent or about 2.8 million adults. This is significantly lower than the national average.

However, there is still much work to be done. With the significant increase in e-cigarette use, particularly among youth, the need for tobacco control is greater than ever.

Read the latest report for California here:
California Tobacco Facts and Figures 2021

Youth and Smoking

Most tobacco users start during adolescence. The U.S. Surgeon General, Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults finds:

  • Every day, more than 1,200 people in this country die due to smoking. For each of those deaths, at least two youth or young adults become regular smokers each day. Almost 90% of those replacement smokers smoke their first cigarette by age 18.
  • Prevention efforts must focus on young adults ages 18 through 25, too. Almost no one starts smoking after age 25. Nearly 9 out of 10 smokers started smoking by age 18, and 99% started by age 26. Progression from occasional to daily smoking almost always occurs by age 26.
  • Use of multiple tobacco products—including cigarettes, cigars, and smokeless tobacco—is common among young people.

Youth and E-cigarettes

The U.S. Surgeon General published a report on the new alarming rate of e-cigarette use among youth and young adults, E-Cigarette Use Among Youth and Young Adults 

The report finds:

  • Among young adults 18-24 years of age, e-cigarette use more than doubled from 2013 to 2014. As of 2014, more than one-third of young adults had tried e-cigarettes.
  • In 2015, more than 3 million youth in middle and high school, including about 1 of every 6 high school students, used e-cigarettes in the past month. More than a quarter of youth in middle and high school have tried e-cigarettes.
  • The brain is the last organ in the human body to develop fully. Brain development continues until the early to mid-20s. Nicotine exposure during periods of significant brain development, such as adolescence, can disrupt the growth of brain circuits that control attention, learning, and susceptibility to addiction.
  • E-cigarettes are available in a wide variety of flavors, including many that are especially appealing to youth. More than 85% of e-cigarette users ages 12-17 use flavored e-cigarettes, and flavors are the leading reason for youth use.
  • More than 9 of 10 young adult e-cigarette users said they use e-cigarettes flavored to taste like menthol, alcohol, fruit, chocolate, or other sweets.

Tobacco Use and Behavioral Health

Persons with behavioral health conditions are more likely than those without such conditions to smoke and to smoke more heavily.

To learn more about the visit: https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/disparities/what-we-know/behavioral-health-conditions/index.html

Health Impacts

Tobacco use is detrimental to health. Read the U.S. Surgeon General’s report on the topic at:

The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General, 2014

Additional Resources

American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation

American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, Inc.

American Heart Association

American Lung Association

California Department of Public Health, Tobacco Control Program

California Youth Advocacy Network

Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Change Lab Solutions

Hispanic Latino Coordinating Center

Kick It California

Flavors Hook Kids

Public Health Law Center

Smoking Cessation Leadership Center

The Center for Disease Control – Smoking & Tobacco Use

The Center for Tobacco Policy & Organizing

Thirdhand Smoke Resource Center

Truth Initiative

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