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Does Your Neighborhood Have a lot of Smokers? Study Finds that Smoking Rates Flucuate Across L.A. County

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Photo by pnknbx via Flickr

Photo by pnknbx via Flickr
There are still over 1 million smokers in Los Angeles County, but some cities are more to blame than others. The County of Los Angeles Public Health recently released a study (PDF) breaking down smoking rates based on geographical locations -- for example, West Hollywood has a lot of smokers; Malibu does not -- in hopes of encouraging individual cities to implement tobacco control policies.

Los Angeles has one of the lowest smoking rates of any major urban city in the United States. And while the high school youth carries on the tradition with a steady decline in smoking from 25 percent to a recent 12 percent, adults have not shown the same progress. Smoking rates for adults have started to level off and have remained at around 14 percent for about eight years.

Dr. Jonathan Fielding M.D., M.P.H, Director of Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (DPH) admitted it is easy to get discouraged. “Despite all efforts we aren’t where we need to be,” said Fielding, “Even though we have lower rates than other places, it is disappointing that we haven’t made progress over the last eight years."

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But Fielding hopes this new study will inspire and catalyze local action to reduce tobacco use.

Local action however will look different to each city. Palos Verdes Estates, for example, has one of the lowest numbers at 7.4 percent smoking rate while its neighboring city Redondo Beach nearly tops the list with nearly double the number at 16 percent of the population smoking. Fielding pointed out that the numbers are relatively small, which could affect a study like this, but feels the statistics give accurate direction.

“We can't explain all these differences. We have rates that differ from one county to another, and some that are of relative close proximity” said Fielding. It is known that males tend to smoke more than females and African Americans smoke at a higher rate than other ethnicities. It is also known that the higher the education the less likely someone is to smoke. But with populations as similar as Redondo Beach and Palos Verdes, approximately eight minutes apart, according to Google Maps, the next step is simply to look at the tobacco control programs.

The first of these programs started back in 1988 with the tobacco tax followed by the statewide ban on smoking in bars or restaurants. But DPH thinks cities in Los Angeles County can go even further. Fielding suggested having non-smoking only rental housing options, required licensing for tobacco retailers, required postings of health warning signs, or even adding a fee for cigarettes that will be used to diminish tobacco litter.

DPH also feels supporting individuals with resources, knowledge, and information on how to quit can also make a difference in smoking rates.

NO Excuses LAoffers advise, helpline information, support groups, statistical information on the harmful effects of smoking, etc. 1-800-NO-BUTTS is another hotline for residents wanting to quit but needing an extra push. The California Smoker’s Helpline offers counseling but has also had increasing access to nicotine replacement products.

Fielding also suggested a next move could be reaching out to doctors and dentists to promote the negative affects of tobacco and resource their patients with nicotine replacement products as well.

The smoking battle continues but every year that goes by another 8,500- one out of every seven- die from smoking related complications.