Progress "stalled" in controlling tobacco use in California

By Wallace Ravven on 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 four only 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 www.library.ucsf.edu/tobacco/ca2001

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 http:// www.library.ucsf.edu/tobacco/state.html