Background: In the 1990s, California led the USA in state-level tobacco control strategies. However, after 2000, California lost ground on cigarette taxes, although it maintained higher levels of smoke-free homes among smokers.
Methods: Trends in per capita cigarette consumption were assessed through taxed sales data and from self-report in repeated national cross-sectional surveys. Linear regressions identified changes in trends after year 2000 separately for California and the rest of the USA. Using data from each state, a linear regression tested the association between different tobacco control strategies and per capita consumption. Change in self-reported per capita consumption was partitioned into contributions associated with initiation, quitting and reduction in cigarette consumption level.
Results: Both taxed cigarette sales and per capita consumption declined rapidly in the USA from 1985 to 2015. Declines were particularly fast in California before 2000 but slowed thereafter. In 2014, per capita consumption in California was 29.4 packs/adult/year, but 90% higher in the rest of the USA. Modelling state-level data, every $1 increase in cigarette taxes reduced consumption by 4.8 (95% CI 2.9 to 6.8) packs/adult/year. Every 5% increase in the proportion of smokers with smoke-free homes reduced consumption by 8.0 (95% CI 7.0 to 8.9) packs/adult/year. The different patterns in California and the rest of the USA are at least partially explained by these two variables. The slow down in per capita consumption in California can be attributed to changes in initiation, quitting and especially smokers reducing their consumption level.
Conclusions: Tobacco control strategies need to be continually updated to maintain momentum towards a smoke-free society.
Keywords: cessation; denormalization; public policy; surveillance and monitoring.
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