Bay Area cities receive poor grades on smoking prevention report card

(January 20, 2012)

The American Lung Association released a report grading cities, counties and states on the state of tobacco control and the protection of residents from second-hand smoke Thursday, and California and the Bay Area did not fare well.

California did earn an A grade for smoke-free air policies, but received a failing grade for access to smoking cessation and treatment services, and an F grade for inadequately funding tobacco prevention and control programs.

The state also earned a D grade for its cigarette tax, which the American Lung Association said ranks 33rd among the 50 states at 87 cents per pack. The national average is $1.46 per pack.

In the Bay Area, there are several fresh air oases, and three Bay Area cities were among the 12 municipalities statewide that received A grades for their smoking policies: Albany, Union City, and Richmond. Two of the Bay Area's largest cities, San Francisco and Oakland, each earned a B grade, while the largest city, San Jose, earned a C.

But beyond that, most Bay Area cities earned grades of D or F. Every city in three area counties received an F grade: Monterey County, Napa County and Solano County.

The failing grades come with plenty of company, however: 66 percent of all jurisdictions in the state received an F grade.

Only one city in San Mateo County received a grade above a C: Belmont, which received a B.

The scoring for each city is based on whether restrictions on smoking in public outdoor areas are in place, smoking in residential housing is limited, and whether there are restrictions intended to reduce sales of tobacco products.

Each of those categories is scored by other steps commonly taken by cities for reducing smoking, for example whether tobacco can be sold in pharmacies or near schools and parks, and whether smoking is banned at public events and worksites.

Santa Clara County Supervisor Ken Yeager spoke at a news conference Thursday to announce the results, praising recent efforts made to curb health hazards from smoking, but urging cities to do more. He said that from 2010 to 2011, Santa Clara County's grade went from an F to an A after measures passed by the Board of Supervisors took effect. However, that grade only applied to the unincorporated areas of the county.

The countywide tobacco legislation does not apply to individual cities, and Yeager urged them to take steps to limit smoking, steps that some cities have already taken.

"Campbell, Cupertino and Los Altos have improved smoke-free outdoor air through new laws affecting outdoor service areas. In fact, Campbell went from an F to an A in that category. San Jose, too, made great strides this year, passing a tobacco retail ordinance that helps keep tobacco out of the hands of minors," Yeager said.

Other Bay Area cities also recently passed anti-smoking ordinances, including Alameda, where a new law strictly limiting public smoking took effect on Jan. 2. Alameda earned a B on the report card.

But to earn a better statewide grade, the American Lung Association is urging Californians to pass the California Cancer Research Act on the June 2012 ballot. The measure would increase the state's tobacco tax by $1 per pack, and the revenues would go to researching, treating and preventing lung disease, heart disease, stroke, cancer and other tobacco-related illnesses.



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