Why does this city in California have the highest tobacco consumption rate in the state?

Why does this city in California have the highest tobacco consumption rate in the state?

The golden sunshine of California seems to disappear into the acrid smoke of Sacramento.

While California has one of the most stringent tobacco control programs in the nation, a stark reality remains beneath the surface: Sacramento has the highest tobacco consumption rate in California. From 2017 to 2018, e-cigarette use among 11th graders in the Sac City Unified School District increased by a staggering 50 percent. This is a stark reminder that progress is fragile and the fight against tobacco is far from over.

Despite California's overall success in controlling smoking rates, Sacramento remains shrouded in its own haze. This article delves into the reasons behind this alarming disparity, uncovering the factors that fuel tobacco use and the communities most affected. It’s not just a narrative of statistics, but of a life caught in the crossfire of addiction and social pressure.

clouds of history

Sacramento's smoking statistics paint a disturbing picture.

Elsewhere in California, 10.9% of adults reported current smoking in 2022, compared with a troubling 12% in Sacramento. While the national average smoking rate hovers around 12.5%, a higher percentage of Sacramento residents smoke, with 8.9% of residents smoking in 2020 compared to the national rate of 15.5%. Even among high school students, the disparity is staggering: 5.4% of Californians smoked cigarettes in 2017, compared with 8.8% nationally. These numbers are more than just statistics; they represent individual struggles, years lost, and the financial burden on the health care system.

More in-depth research reveals tobacco itself and its impact on the population. Low-income communities, communities of color, and certain age groups, such as young adults, have borne the brunt of the pandemic. Historical policies, such as redlining and targeted tobacco marketing, have left their mark. , creating a legacy of inequalities in health care and health environments. The city is also clouded by its past involvement in the tobacco industry, which has influenced cultural norms and made smoking appear more acceptable.

The truth behind

Sacramento is filled with tobacco retailers, whose bright signs and attractive displays are often located near schools and community centers. Affordability also plays a role, with predatory pricing strategies targeting vulnerable groups. The rise of flavored tobacco products has increased their appeal to young people.

Limited resources and supports exacerbate the problem, especially in underserved communities, where access to smoking cessation programs and health care can be spotty. Community outreach programs, key to education and support, may be underfunded or lack cultural sensitivity. This creates a perfect storm where those struggling with addiction lack the tools and support to escape addiction.

In addition to acquisition, cultural influences also play an important role. In some communities, smoking may be deeply ingrained social norms and traditions that are passed down from generation to generation. This comes with pressure, especially among young people, which can make it more difficult to resist tobacco use. Additionally, smoking can be a coping mechanism for mental health struggles, creating a vicious cycle of addiction and emotional vulnerability.


To clean the air in Sacramento and beyond, a comprehensive solution is needed. Policy changes, such as increasing tobacco taxes, restricting retail licenses, and banning flavored products, can incentivize quitting and deter first-time smokers. Empowering communities through culturally relevant educational programs, accessible smoking cessation resources, and community-led initiatives can break down health barriers and create supportive environments.

Improving health care is another critical step. Integrating tobacco control into primary care, making cessation resources readily available, and training health care professionals in addiction treatment can empower health systems to address this problem head-on.

Action slogan

Sacramento’s fight against tobacco is a collective responsibility. A smoke-free future in California is as far away as the Sierra Nevada Mountains above Sacramento. While progress across the state is laudable, the city under a cloud is a stark reminder that vulnerabilities remain. By understanding the reasons behind Sacramento's high rates of tobacco use, people will be empowered to take action.
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