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Adolescent smoking decline during California’s tobacco control programme
  1. J P Pierce,
  2. M M White,
  3. E A Gilpin
  1. Cancer Prevention and Control Program, Rebecca and John Moores UCSD Cancer Center, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 John P Pierce
 PhD, Cancer Prevention and Control Program, Cancer Center, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, Ca 92093-0645, USA;


Objective: California’s comprehensive tobacco control programme was 13 years old in 2002; by then, children entering adolescence at the start of the programme were young adults. This study examines whether adolescent smoking declined over this period, whether any decline carried through to young adulthood, and whether it was specific to California.

Setting and participants: Most data were from the 1990–2002 California Tobacco Surveys (CTS) (adolescents 12–17 years, > 5000/survey, young adults 18–24 years, > 1000/survey). Additional data were from the national 1992/93–2001/02 Current Population Survey (CPS) (young adults 18–24 years, > 15 000/survey).

Results: Over the 13 year period in California, ever puffing declined by 70% in 12–13 year olds, by 53% in 14–15 year olds from 1992–2002, and by 34% in 16–17 year olds from 1996–2002 (CTS). As noted, the decline commenced progressively later in each older group. Smoking experimentation (1+ cigarettes) and established smoking (> 100 cigarettes in lifetime) showed similar patterns. Compared to 1990, the percentage of California young adults (CTS data) who ever experimented declined by 14%, with half of the decline from 1999–2002. CPS young adult smoking prevalence (established and now smoke everyday or some days) was constant in the rest of the USA over the entire period, but California showed a recent 18% decline from 1998/99 to 2001/02.

Conclusions: California’s comprehensive programme may have kept new adolescent cohorts from experimenting with cigarettes. Low young adolescent experimentation rates at programme start appeared to carry through to young adulthood, resulting in a recent drop in young adult smoking prevalence in California not observed in the rest of the USA.

  • CPS, Current Population Survey
  • CTS, California Tobacco Surveys
  • DE, Department of Education
  • DHS, Department of Health Services
  • MSA, Master Settlement Agreement
  • adolescent smoking
  • tobacco control
  • young adult smoking

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  • Competing interests: none declared