The value of smoke-free policies

Bruce Leistikow’s work focuses on one thing: reducing smoking-related deaths. Some of his most influential research outcomes relate to smoking and health disparities – racial, ethnic, gender, socioeconomic and geographic – along with its economic and emotional costs: 

  • Tobacco smoke can be linked to 63 percent of cancer deaths among African-American men in the United States, with their smoke-related cancer death burden being highest in the South and lowest in the Northeast.

  • Deaths due to smoking left tens of thousands of youth in the United States newly motherless or fatherless in 1994. (This study was the foundation for Florida’s recent Superbowl anti-smoking ad.) The resulting taxpayer costs included nearly $2 billion in Social Security Survivors Insurance in 1994.

  • Korean, Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese American males living in California die of cancer at three times the rate of South Asian females in California, whose cancer mortality rate is one of the lowest in the world. These disparities can be explained almost entirely by tobacco smoke exposure.

  • If the rest of the country had reduced smoking as drastically as California, some 140,000 premature deaths from lung and other cancers would have been spared between 1988 and 1997. Another 70,000 early widowhoods would also have been avoided.

  • Smoking is the leading cause of deaths in the United States due to residential fires.

“Even after all that we have learned about the dangers of smoking, there is still some confusion about the variety of negative outcomes it has on families and society,” said Leistikow, who is an associate professor of public health sciences. “My work clarifies who is most affected by premature deaths due to smoking. These deaths can be can be reduced by applying the right policy tools.”

Leistikow speaks frequently on the importance of clean, smoke-free air for all. He was part of the team that crafted the smoke-free policies of the UC Davis Health System, which, as of July 1, 2008, banned smoking on its entire Sacramento campus.