Lung Association Says It's Time to Raise the Grade, as California Earns Mixed Results in Tobacco Policy Report Card

American Lung Association in California Grades More than 400 of the State’s Cities and Counties on How Well They Are Protecting Their Citizens from Tobacco

Richmond, CA (January 12, 2010)

The American Lung Association in California (ALAC) joined civic leaders, medical professionals and local residents of the city of Richmond to release its annual State of Tobacco Control report card for cities and counties throughout the state of California. Municipalities were graded on their ordinances covering smokefree outdoor environments, smokefree housing and tobacco sales reductions.

The ALAC report coincides with the release of the State of Tobacco Control 2009 national report card that grades the federal government, all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Citing mixed results at every level for the state, ALAC President and CEO Jane Warner said, "It's time to raise the grade. For all Californians, strong tobacco control policies must be a top priority."

Once a national leader in battling the lethal effects of tobacco, California again received an F for the state's failure to adequately fund tobacco prevention and control programs, currently at less than one-fifth the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-recommended level. While the report gave California high marks for state laws that protect the public from secondhand smoke in enclosed public places and workplaces, the state received D's for its failure to raise the tobacco tax and provide cessation treatment and services to help people quit smoking. Among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, California now ranks 32nd for its $.87 per pack tax, far below the national average of $1.34. A full copy of the national report is available at www.stateoftobaccocontrol.org.

With nearly 4 million smokers in California, tobacco use continues to take a significant toll on public health and taxpayer dollars. Tobacco remains the number one preventable cause of death in California, claiming an estimated 36,684 lives annually. That's more people lost to tobacco use than alcohol, HIV/AIDS, car crashes, illegal drugs, murders and suicides combined. For the state, the costs of tobacco use top more than $18 billion every year.

Fortunately, many individual communities are making headway on this critical issue. More than 370 cities across California have been graded on (1) Smokefree Outdoor Air; (2) Smokefree Housing; and (3) Reducing Sales of Tobacco Products. These three grades have been averaged for one overall local tobacco control grade.

"The stakes are too high to gamble with complacency," said Warner. "We're here in Richmond to highlight what can be – and has been – done when awareness is combined with commitment. In one year, Richmond enacted ordinances to raise its grades from F's and D's in all categories to straight A's, offering real protection to the people who live, work and play here."

Richmond now also boasts the strongest smokefree housing ordinance in the nation, prohibiting smoking in 100 percent of all multi-unit housing, some 34 percent of all housing in the city.

Richmond is among four cities receiving an overall A grade, including other first-time recipients Albany and Calabasas, and joining last year's sole recipient Glendale. Twenty-four cities and counties received A's for smokefree outdoor air regulations, six earned A's for smokefree housing and 60 obtained A's for reducing sales of tobacco products.

While many other cities and counties around the state adopted strong tobacco control policies and improved their grades, a majority of municipalities are failing to protect their residents from the dangers of secondhand smoke in outdoor environments and multi-unit housing. In total, 271 cities and county unincorporated areas received an F for their overall grade. Complete report cards for all 373 cities and 34 counties may be accessed here along with complete scoring criteria.

"Like so many issues in California, local communities are leading the way. We are hopeful that state and local leaders can learn from these grades and the tobacco control efforts of others around the state," added Warner. "The American Lung Association will continue to work with state and local leaders and advocates to pass effective tobacco control policies and raise the grades."

ALAC is working tirelessly to improve California's grades
The American Lung Association in California is co-sponsoring the California Cancer Research Act, a November 2010 ballot initiative that will raise the state's cigarette tax by $1.00 per pack and fund cancer research and tobacco prevention and control programs.

An increase in the tobacco tax will save lives, prevent youth from starting to smoke, encourage smokers to quit and lower health care costs from tobacco-related diseases. In fact, research shows that for every 10 percent increase in the cost of a pack of cigarettes, there is a 7 percent decline in youth smoking.

 "We ask California voters to stand with us against Big Tobacco," said Paul Knepprath, ALAC Vice President of Advocacy and Health Initiatives, "We are committed to providing much-needed funding for tobacco prevention and control programming and research to reverse the damaging effects of our nation's number one killer. We ask California voters to help us qualify and pass the initiative in November."

Now in its second century, the American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease. With your generous support, the American Lung Association is "Fighting for Air" through research, education and advocacy. For more information about the American Lung Association or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872)


Reporter/Editor Note: Tobacco/smoking-related b-roll and print graphics for this news story are available at no charge at www.lungusa.mediaseed.tv (brief registration required)

View full details about California state, county and city grades

The nationwide report is available at www.stateoftobaccocontrol.org.