The Demographics of Lighting up in California

by Jenny Novac on May 29, 2012

Nearly 1 in 5 adults in America are current smoker. It is a considerable decrease from even a decade ago. California is not an exception. Smoking rate in this state is one of the lowest in the country – 1 in 8.

Adult Smoker

A man exhaling cigarette smoke

But there are still pretty wide inequality in smoking rates across economic, racial, educational, and gender lines.

Last two decades demonstrated that California’s general adult smoking rate has decreased about 40 percent. However, revenue and education levels still are the two biggest foretellers of who smokes. The California Tobacco Control Program survey, taking into consideration data from 2008, revealed the following:

Poorer counties have considerably higher smoking rates
Tehama County is one of the poorest with a poverty rate about 20 %. Adult smoking rate is the highest there – almost 23 %.
Marin County has one of the richest population’s in the state and had the lowest rate –7 %.

Poorer households have higher smoking rates
Households with yearly revenues surpassing $150,000 had a smoking rate under 8 %, in comparison with about 20% rate among those with yearly revenues less than $20,000.

Education level is important
The smoking rate among college students in California is 6 % and this is less than half that of those who haven’t attended educational institution.

Smoking rates in rural areas are higher
Smoking rate in rural areas is about 16 %, but in suburban and urban regions – around 11 %. It is worthy of note that San Francisco and Sacramento Counties had rates above the state average.

Inequalities in the state’s smoking rates show an interesting issue. Tobacco tax is regarded retrogressive. All smoking people pay the same amount of tax for a cigarette pack, and correspondingly the price burden has more influence on a poorer smoker than a richer. For example, if the tax on a cigarette pack were $2, and a weekly budget was only $10, that tax would be one-fifth of whole budget. However, if a budget was $200, the same tax would only be one-tenth of entire budget. So, the more income a person has, the less he feels the tax burden.

In the June 5 primary, California voters decide whether to considerably augment the state’s cigarette tax. If the Proposition 29 comes into effect, it will have disproportionate influence on lower revenue, less educated part of population, who has higher smoking rates. Some opponents confirm that a tax like this unjustly intends and penalizes the state’s poorer populations, who smoke more. Richer populations’ smoking rates are much lower and they will be less affected.

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