JOURNAL EMBARGO: 4 p.m. (Eastern) Wednesday, April 29, 2002

Cancer Center Study Shows State's Workplace Smoking Laws Are Effective

Researchers at the Rebecca and John Moores UCSD Cancer Center report that California's legislation prohibiting cigarette smoking in indoor workplaces is proving effective at reducing the amount of exposure to secondhand smoke among adult workers. These findings, based on data from telephone surveys conducted in 1990, 1992, 1996 and 1999, are reported in the May 2002 issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

"Over the past decade, Californians have reported steadily decreasing exposure to secondhand smoke in the workplace, as well as increased smoke-free home environments, which indicates that clean air legislation combined with education is making an impact," said the study's principal author, Elizabeth A. Gilpin, M.S. "Although enforcement of workplace smoking restrictions continues to be a concern, these results are very encouraging." Gilpin is a member of the Cancer Prevention and Control Program at the Moores UCSD Cancer Center and clinical professor of biostatistics at the UCSD School of Medicine.

Gilpin and colleagues report that the percentage of smoke-free workplaces in California increased from 35 percent in 1990 to more than 93 percent in 1999. The number of smoke-free homes doubled, from 36 percent in 1992 to 73 percent in 1999; importantly, nearly half of adult smokers reported living in smoke-free homes in 1999.

"Being unable to smoke in one's home establishes norms against smoking around non-smokers, while also protecting children from asthma and other serious illnesses that can be triggered by secondhand smoke," explained Gilpin.

The UCSD report is based on analysis of the large, cross-sectional California Tobacco Surveys conducted by the Cancer Center periodically throughout the 1990s for the California Department of Health Services. The surveys included randomly selected adults over the age of 18.

California's first comprehensive governmental tobacco control program was initiated in 1989, funded by Proposition 99, a 25-cent excise tax on cigarette packs. Clean indoor air laws for indoor workplaces were first enacted in 1994, although bars and restaurant bar areas were not included in the restrictions until 1998.

Researchers uncovered distinct differences in exposure levels among workplace types. In 1999, 31 percent of bar and restaurant employees reported being exposed to secondhand smoke, as opposed to 11 percent of office workers. Additionally, many nonsmokers who reported recent exposure to secondhand smoke in places other than work or at home said it occurred while patronizing restaurants (13.4 percent) and bars (8.1 percent). These findings led the researchers to recommend increased enforcement efforts for these venues.

In addition to enforcement of existing legislation, UCSD's findings led to recommendations for building increased public awareness of the right to breathe clean air.

"Educating the public will continue to be the most effective method of keeping California's indoor air free of secondhand smoke," said Gilpin. "Awareness programs targeted at demographic groups will reinforce existing mass media messages. Being armed with information about the dangers of secondhand smoke is the best way for everyone smokers and non-smokers to change behaviors."

Joining Gilpin on the report were Arthur J. Farkas, Ph.D; Sherry L. Emery, Ph.D.; Christopher F. Ake,Ph.D., and John P. Pierce, Ph.D. The study was funded by a grant from the National Cancer Institute.

Founded in 1979, UCSD Cancer Center was recently renamed the Rebecca and John Moores UCSD Cancer Center in honor of the Moores leadership gift to the Center. The Center is one of just 40 in the United States to hold a National Cancer Institute (NCI) designation as a Comprehensive Cancer Center. As such, it ranks among the top centers in the nation conducting basic and clinical cancer research, providing advanced patient care and serving the community through outreach and education programs.

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Nancy Stringer

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