Despite nationwide efforts to curb smoking, a recent study released by the county Department of Public Health has revealed that rates of lighting up in Los Angeles have remained steady since 2002, though some areas, including West Hollywood, South Los Angeles and the South Bay have seen increases.
Roughly 14 percent of county residents smoke, with higher rates among African-Americans, women, young adults, and the LGBT community, according to the Daily News.
The data for the study was collected in 2007, just when bans for smoking had begun taking place around the country. The study is the first of its kind to break down the data along geographic and demographic lines. Though researchers admit they don't understand the geographic disparities, they've determined that the highest rates of smoking go with other substance abuse problems.
According to the study, smoking rates have gone up in Quartz Hill, Lancaster, West Hollywood, Lake Los Angeles, South L.A., Palmdale, Hermosa Beach, and Redondo Beach. Rates have gone down in San Marino, Malibu, La Canada Flintridge, Calabasas, Palos Verdes Estates, Agoura Hills ,Westlake Village, and Walnut.
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Nearly 20 percent of those who live in gay-friendly West Hollywood smoke, and smoking among gay men is 50 percent higher than among heterosexual men. In fact the American Lung Association is expected to hold a national conference on why smoking rates among the LGBT community remain so high.
Stress-related fear of homophobia or a strong bar-centric culture could be behind the increased rates of lighting up among gay people, according to Paul Knepprath, the vice president for the Advocacy & Health Initiative for the American Lung Association in California.
Billion dollar-marketing campaigns by tobacco companies are blamed for high rates of smoking among young people. According Knepprath, at least $1.5 billion is spent by tobacco companies on marketing in California alone.
County officials have proposed several solutions to reduce smoking in Los Angeles. "In addition to the need for policy-based initiatives to reduce tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke, support and resources must also be given to residents who want to quit smoking," Linda Aragon, Director, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Tobacco Control Program said in a statement.