Progress 'stalled' in controlling tobacco use in California

July 11, 2001

California's tobacco control program is "stalled and adrift," and thousands of people will die needlessly as a result, according to a new report published by the Institute for Health Policy Studies in the School of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.

The report, titled "Tobacco Policy Making in California 1999-2001: Stalled and Adrift," is part of a regular series by the Institute on tobacco industry political lobbying, contributions and other activities in California and other states. It assesses local as well as statewide efforts to curb tobacco use.

Despite initial optimism that the administration of California Gov. Gray Davis would reverse efforts by the previous administration of Pete Wilson to "undermine and weaken tobacco control efforts," the Governor has opposed substantial increases in funding for tobacco control, the report states. And Davis has been slow to mount an aggressive tobacco control program.

The Davis administration has responded to pressure from health groups to revive the state's tobacco control program -- announcing plans to increase funding of the program by $20 million in the coming fiscal year for a youth anti-smoking program. But the commitment is only about a fifth of the amount recommended by health groups, the state Tobacco Education and Research Oversight Committee and the federal CDC, the report observes.

Of the approximately $1 billion a year that California receives from the settlement of the state's lawsuit against the tobacco industry, the state government receives half and the counties receive half. The $20 million that the Governor proposes spending to augment the state tobacco control effort thus represents only four percent of the state's available funds, according to the report.

Authors are Michael S. Givel, PhD, Joanna Dearlove, BA and Stanton A. Glantz, PhD, all researchers at the Institute for Health Policy Studies. Glantz is UCSF professor of medicine and director of the new Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at UCSF.

The UCSF report is being released online at

Tobacco industry campaign contributions to legislators, candidates, political parties and the like in 1999-2000 totaled $1.47 million, a 173 percent increase over 1997-1998, and about the same as the amount spent in 1993-1994 and 1995-1996, according to the report.

The tobacco industry continues to favor Republicans over Democrats when making campaign contributions, although the gap is narrowing, the report shows. In the 1999-2000 campaign, 58 percent of campaign contributions went to Republican candidates and committees, down from 81 percent in 1997-1998.

Of the 120 members of the state Legislature, 33 members accepted no campaign contributions from the tobacco industry (31 Democrats, 1 Republican, and one Independent) - up from 28 who accepted no tobacco money in 1997-1998. The top recipients of tobacco industry campaign contributions in 1999-2000 were Assembly member Scott Baugh (R-Huntington Beach), $90,000, and Senator Ross Johnson (R-Irvine), $83,000.

During the earlier 1990s, when the California Tobacco Control Program was large and aggressive, smoking was falling in California much more rapidly than in the rest of the United States, the report shows. Studies by one of the authors, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, credited the smoking reduction for preventing 59,000 heart disease deaths from 1989 through 1997. However, during the later 1990s, after the program was "cut back and toned down," this difference narrowed, an effect associated with 15,000 more heart disease deaths in the state than would have occurred had program effectiveness been maintained.

"These lives were saved because the program concentrated on everyone, not just kids," Glantz said. "It is disappointing that the Administration has not learned from the past successes in California and only wants to provide a modest increase in funding for youth programs."

Since Proposition 10 raised the cigarette tax 50 cents in 1999, the decline in smoking in California has accelerated.

The counties receive $500 million a year from the state's settlement of the lawsuit against the tobacco industry, but by February 2001, only 13 of 62 California local governments had allocated any funds for tobacco control efforts, the report shows. The combined spending of the 13 counties that did spend funds on tobacco control was about $16.8 million, only about three percent the available funds.
The research was funded by the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund.

Previous reports in this series (including reports on other states) are available on the Web at

University of California - San Francisco

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