HHS Secretary Announces Launch of Unprecedented Anti-Smoking Effort in Los Angeles County

Federally-Funded Campaign Will Target Communities With High Smoking Rates

LOS ANGELES, CA--(Marketwire - August 25, 2010) -  Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today joined Los Angeles County Supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky and Mark Ridley-Thomas and county Health Officer Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding to announce the start of the most aggressive, comprehensive anti-smoking campaign in L.A. County history to reach communities with high smoking rates across the county. This anti-tobacco effort will include several policy-based initiatives, social services and support for quit smoking efforts, as well as a high-profile and highly targeted media campaign to support a broad range of tobacco control efforts and raise awareness of free and low-cost resources to help smokers quit. These tactics will aim to ultimately reduce secondhand smoke exposure, discourage tobacco use, reduce consumption of tobacco products, strengthen youth smoking prevention efforts, and increase access to and utilization of effective tobacco cessation services.

The campaign will be funded by a federal stimulus grant from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Communities Putting Prevention to Work initiative. L.A. County is one of 44 communities across the nation to receive funding from the highly competitive initiative and is the largest grant recipient, receiving $16.2 million for tobacco prevention and $15.9 million for obesity prevention, for a total of $32.1 million.

"Tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the United States," said Secretary Sebelius. "The Department of Health and Human Services is committed to helping communities reduce smoking prevalence and decrease exposure to secondhand smoke. We are proud to be working with Los Angeles County, one of the leaders in tobacco prevention and control."

While the overall smoking rate for L.A. County -- at 14.3 percent -- is substantially lower than the national average, there are still more than one million adults and adolescents in the county who continue to smoke. And smoking rates among certain populations continue to be much higher than the general population, including African Americans, Asian males, LGBT, those living in poverty, and those suffering from mental health and substance abuse problems. Among those racial and ethnic groups with smoking rates higher than the general population are:

  • African American males (32.1 percent) and females (19.6 percent)
  • Latino males (17.7 percent)
  • Korean males (44.8 percent)
  • Chinese males (16.4 percent)
  • Filipino males (17.1 percent)
  • Vietnamese males (24.8 percent)

"The stakes are too great for us to not step up our efforts. Over the next 18 months, the Department of Public Health will implement the most aggressive, targeted anti-tobacco campaign in L.A. County history," said Jonathan E. Fielding, MD, MPH, Director of Public Health and Health Officer. "These funds are allowing us to build on our successes and redouble our efforts in the communities with the greatest need."

In addition to Public Health's 58 current partners -- including CBOs, social service agencies and statewide partners -- the county will be awarding grants to an additional 71 social service agencies, including homeless shelters and transitional housing facilities, throughout L.A. County to support tobacco cessation efforts. The county will also be working in more than 75 high schools throughout L.A. County, including continuation and alternative high schools, where approximately 32.4 percent of the students are current smokers.

"These efforts are ultimately focused on preventing the next generation of teenagers and young adults from using tobacco products. It is essential that we create more environments where tobacco use is not acceptable, where all county residents are protected from exposure to secondhand smoke, and where those who want help quitting know how and where to go get it," said Dr. Fielding.

To help residents who are currently addicted to tobacco, have already quit or want to help a friend or relative kick this deadly addiction, Angelenos can visit www.LAQuits.com for information and resources about quitting smoking, or call 1-800-NO-BUTTS, the free and confidential telephone counseling service that has proven to double a smoker's chances of successfully quitting than if the smoker tried to do it alone. The service also assists those trying to quit chewing tobacco and has experts to help teens quit.

The Department of Public Health is committed to protecting and improving the health of the nearly 10 million residents of Los Angeles County. Through a variety of programs, community partnerships and services, Public Health oversees environmental health, disease control, and community and family health. Public Health comprises more than 4,000 employees and an annual budget exceeding $750 million. To learn more about Public Health and the work we do, please visit http://www.publichealth.lacounty.gov or visit our YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/lapublichealth.