LOS ANGELES – Not only are there fewer adults who are smoking, but nearly three out of every four smokers are trying to quit or have cut back, according to recent data out of the Department of Health Services. Approximately 15.6% adults in Los Angeles County smoke cigarettes, according to new findings from the 2002-03 Los Angeles County Health Survey. The overall rate of smoking is lower now than was found in two previous surveys (1997 and 1999) both of which estimated the percentage of adult smokers at 18%.
Although these percentage differences may seem small, the study’s findings mean that approximately 175,000 fewer adults are smoking than if the rate of smoking had remained the same as in previous years. Not only are smoking rates lower than those measured statewide for more than 20 years, but 71% of smokers have cut down and/or quit successfully for one or more days in the past year. The most common methods used to quit smoking were “cold turkey” (74%), nicotine substitute (18%), and self-help materials (14%). “We are pleased by the appearance of a downward trend in smoking, but we still have work to do to get more people to quit for good,” said Jonathan Fielding, M.D., M.P.H., Director of Public Health and Health Officer.
Overall, 20% of men smoke compared to 11% of women. However, lower rates among women are primarily due to lower smoking rates among Asians/Pacific Islander women (7%) and Latinas (7%), while African-American women (19%) and White women (16%) smoke in rates comparable to men. In addition, the study noted that 39% of smokers who are white smoke heavily--a pack or more per day—which was true for 20% of African-American and 12% of Latino smokers. Only half of smokers reported that their doctor advised them to quit.
“Clearly, physician counseling and smoking cessation are among the most effective and life saving of the preventive services doctors can provide” said Dr. Fielding. “We want to work to assure that more patients hear that message and receive appropriate support from their primary care physicians.”
The Los Angeles County Health Survey is a periodic, population-based telephone survey that collects information on socio-demographic characteristics, health status, health behaviors and access to health services among adults and children in Los Angeles County. The 2002- 03 survey collected information on a random sample of more than 8,000 adults and nearly 6,000 children with interviews offered in six languages.
Public Health is committed to protecting and improving the health of the nearly 10 million residents of Los Angeles County. Through a variety of programs, community partnerships and services, Public Health oversees environmental health, disease control and community and family health and comprises more than 3,800 employees with an annual budget exceeding $600 million.