The California Department of Public Health today announced steps to continue towards its goal of making the state not only cigarette-free, but tobacco-free.

In a news conference this morning, public health director Dr. Ron Chapman said that while smoking is going down, there are still concerns.

Twenty-three percent of Californians smoked 20 years ago, Chapman said. That number has dipped to 12 percent this year.

However, while the rate has dipped by nearly half, about 3.5 million Californians still smoke today, and 34,000 of them die of smoke-related causes, Chapman said.

A year ago, $6.4 billion was spent in health costs related to smoking. This year, the projected total is expected to be $6.5 billion, he said.

Colleen Stevens, branch chief of the tobacco control program, said that the Department of Public Health has educated the youth well, and that the rate of high school student smokers has dropped.

The rate of smokers from 18 to 24 years old has increased, however.

Many homes are now smoke-free, that is likely why the younger demographic is smoking less, Stevens said.

At 18 years old, when young men and women move out, they experiment more, causing in the spike, she said.

According to the research done by the department, people with lower income and lower education are the heaviest smokers.

African-Americans are believed to be the ethnicity with the most smokers, Stevens said.

The department’s plan moving forward is to target that demographic with advertisements to educate them against smoking, she said.

Those ads are scheduled to run in the spring.

Stevens said there are a number of other concerns in making the state tobacco free–for both smoking and nonsmoking tobacco products.

One of the newest concerns are of two products that haven’t reached California yet.
Strips, similar to breath mint strips, and orbs, similar to Tic-Tac mints, are brand-new products that are aimed at the youth, Stevens said.

Other products that are being pushed towards youth and young adults are snus, a dip-like tobacco product put underneath the bottom lip, cigarillos, a small version of cigars that can be bought one at a time for cheaper than a candy bar, cigars and hookah, Stevens said.

More information of the department’s plan for a tobacco-free state can be found at

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