Chico wins praise for tobacco control

(January 20, 2012)

Forty-five cities, including Chico, won recognition from the American Lung Association in California for taking steps toward stronger control of tobacco.

Chico appeared on a list of "Cities and Counties on the Rise" in a report the American Lung Association in California issued Thursday. The report graded cities and counties for their efforts to control tobacco during 2011.

Chico and other cities that made the "on the rise" list raised their grades over the previous year in at least one of several categories.

Chico went from an "F" for 2010 to a "D" for 2011 in the category of "smokefree" outdoor air.

The reason for the better grade was that in August, the Chico Area Recreation and Park District (CARD) adopted a policy banning smoking in all CARD parks, facilities and buildings, said Shelly Brantley, a project director for the American Lung Association in California. She works out of the organization's Chico office and is responsible for many Northern California counties.

The ban covers four community parks: Community Park (20th Street Park), DeGarmo Park, Hooker Oak Park and Wildwood Park. It also includes eight neighborhood parks, four community centers, and six "special purpose facilities," such as Shapiro Pool and DeGarmo Dog Park.

"I'm proud that the grade was improved over last year," she said. "There's obviously more to do, but I think every step we can take to protect the public from second-hand smoke is a good thing."

Besides Chico, three other north-state cities made the "on the rise" list: Live Oak, Anderson and Susanville.

Brantley said Chico may be poised to improve its grades again this year.

Proposals have been made to ban smoking in Bidwell Park and within a certain distance of business entryways. If these measures are adopted, Chico's grade would probably go up again, Brantley said.

Throughout the north state, grades issued by the association were pretty low.

In fact, except for Chico, all the cities in Butte, Glenn, Tehama and Colusa counties received overall grades of "F." So did the boards of supervisors in those counties.

Brantley said there are a couple of reasons city grades are often very low. One is that many cities rely on the state to pass tobacco-control laws and don't delve into that area themselves.

Also, the association is a tough grader, she said. "When you are talking about protecting the public health, I think we need to have the highest standards we can have."

Statewide, 12 cities or counties received an overall tobacco-control grade of "A." Twenty-four received a "B" grade. Sixty-three got grades of "C." There were 84 with "D" grades and 355 got grades of "F."

In the American Lung Association's national report, which evaluated all the states, California received mixed grades.

It got an "A" for "smokefree" air, grades of "F" for tobacco prevention and encouraging people to quit smoking and a "D" for its cigarette tax.

Brantley said many people mistakenly think California has one of the highest cigarette taxes in the nation.

When California adopted its first cigarette tax, in 1988, it was the country's highest, she said. "But now we rank 33rd (highest) at 87 cents per pack. The national average is $1.46 per pack."

Californians will be asked if they want to raise the cigarette tax by $1 a pack when they vote on a ballot measure in June, she said. The money raised by that tax would go for tobacco education, cancer research, and cancer education and prevention, she said.

Three "highlights" of the national report were these: "States are doing less to keep kids from smoking. The tobacco industry is taking advantage of states' inaction by fighting back. The federal government continues to make important progress."


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