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Smoking Also Kills The Environment; California Launches A New Strategy

Last updated: December 27, 2010

Source: Medical News Today

Smoking is a killer. We all know this. However, as we face a decaying environmental landscape, discarded cigarette butts have become the focus of a new ad campaign announced this week by the California Health and Human Services Agency (CHHS).

Thirty years ago, California began the fight to squelch tobacco use in their state, but today the newly launched ads include a focus attention on smoking’s environmental side effects of toxic tobacco waste. The themes of the new ads also include an awareness of progress California has made to date combating big tobacco, the challenges and importance of quitting smoking and bringing tricky marketing ploys front and center to the public’s awareness lens.

Secretary Kimberly Belshé of Public Health (CDPH) stated:

“I am proud of the tremendous progress that California has made during the past 20 years, but our job is not yet complete because nearly four million Californians still smoke, and tobacco remains the number one cause of preventable death and disease.”

Director of the CDPH, Dr. Mark Horton continued:

“California is proud, once again, to be a national leader in the fight against tobacco use and addiction, and is launching a new strategy – focusing attention on the degradation of the environment caused by discarded cigarette butts.”

The new focus of ads drives home the message that cigarettes are not just toxic to people, they are toxic to the environment as well. Cigarette butts are made of cellulose acetate, a plastic that does not biodegrade and can remain in the environment for years. Incredibly, as the most common trash found on beaches and roads, more than 100 million pounds of cigarette butts are discarded in the United States annually.

The campaign also includes television ads featuring Debi Austin. Austin first appeared in an iconic CDPH anti-tobacco ad in 1997 in which she smoked through her tracheotomy shortly after cancer surgery. As a Tobacco Educator, Debi does not preach right and wrong, instead she makes it a point that her audiences of young people and adults alike know that it is their beliefs that guide one’s own choices, that choices that guide actions, and actions that lead to consequences.

Aside from the announcement of this new campaign’s focus, California health leaders shared the latest statewide trends surrounding tobacco and the successes of the . These trends highlight the successes of California’s Tobacco Control Program over the years and challenges that still lie on the horizon. The California Tobacco Control Program was established by the Tobacco Tax and Health Promotion Act of 1988. The act, which was approved by California voters, instituted a 25-cent tax on each pack of cigarettes and earmarked 5 cents of that tax to fund California’s tobacco control efforts.

From 1988, there was a 42 percent decline in adult smoking prevalence from 22.7 percent in 1988 to 13.1 percent in 2009. Also, there has been a 42 percent decline among Asian/Pacific Islanders, and a 41 percent decline in smoking for both African American and Latino adults who smoke.

More than 1 million lives have been extended because of those who have given up smoking and by young adults that have not started due to awareness of the harm it causes.

Fiscally, $86 billion dollars in health care costs have been saved in the state alone, and lung cancer is declining more than three-times faster in California than in the rest of the nation.

Belshé and Horton also pointed out that research shows smoking rates are higher in less densely populated areas of the state. On average, people who live in rural California counties smoke at a higher rate of 15.9 percent than those who live in urban areas, which accounts for 10.9 percent of the general population.

To learn more about California’s tobacco control program visit

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