County-by-county smoking data released Monday by the state Department of Public Health reveal ashtray-makers are still doing pretty good business here in San Francisco.
According to the California Adult Smoking Prevalence 2008 survey, 13.5 percent of San Franciscans are lighting up. To put that number in perspective, the state average is 13.1 percent -- the lowest total ever recorded and down from 26.7 percent in 1985. The local total also represents a steep decline from a 1996 survey, in which 19.5 percent of San Franciscans smoked.
As always, smoking proves to be a leading cause of statistics.
Interestingly, the more rural a county, the higher its percentage of cigarette smokers. In counties with fewer than 100 people per square mile, 15.9 percent of locals indulged in the habit. In counties with greater than 2,000 inhabitants per square mile, only 10.9 percent did. Accordingly, Tehama County is the smokiest in the state at 22.9 percent.
That puts San Francisco's smoking totals, while diminished along with the rest of the state's, far above the norm. Smoking rates in Los Angeles County are 10.4 percent; San Diego County boasts 11 percent; and Fresno 11.2 percent. Possible causes of San Francisco's unseemly rate: Lots of unmarried young people and, believe it or not, a high population of gays and lesbians.