Fewer than a million adults are smokers in Los Angeles County, a figure reached for the first time since such data were collected in 1997, according to a new health report.
The report, released by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health late Wednesday, found 13.1 percent of all adults were smokers in 2011, the last year for which data were available.
That is down from 14.3 percent in 2002 and 2007.
"While it is encouraging to see the decline in smoking among adults over the past several years, tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death in LA County," Dr. Jonathan Fielding, director of public health, said in a statement.
"In addition, exposure to secondhand smoke is an important cause of illness among nonsmokers, contributing to asthma and other respiratory diseases, heart disease and sudden infant death syndrome."
Health officials said cigarette smoking is directly linked to one out of every seven deaths each year, or nearly 8,600 deaths annually.
Smoking also is estimated to cost the county $4.3 billion in medical care and lost productivity costs each year.
The good news was that fewer younger adults smoked: 9.7 percent of younger adults, those 18 to 24; but the rate increased among 25- to 29-year-olds or 20.3 percent.
But the report also found that disparities among some populations remain.
• More men (16.4 percent) than women (10 percent) smoked.
• The smoking rate was highest among African-American men and women (19.5 percent and 15.6 percent).
• The smoking rate was highest in the Antelope Valley at 15.6 percent, while the lowest was in West Los Angeles.
• Those who used methamphetamine, cocaine or Ecstasy, or were heavy drinkers were most likely to smoke.
• Poverty plays a part in those who smoke; those who earned less than 300 percent below the federal poverty level or were homeless in the past five years also smoked more.
"The marked disparities we see in smoking prevalence highlights the need for focused interventions in communities with the highest rates of smoking," Fielding said.
The report was released to coincide with the annual Great American Smokeout on Thursday.
Los Angeles residents can visit LAQuits.com for information about quitting smoking, or call the California Smokers' Helpline, 1-800-NO-BUTTS.