Most San Gabriel Valley, Whittier area cities get Fs and Ds for local smoking policies

(January 20, 2011)


January 20, 2011

A "report card" released Thursday by the American Lung Association shows most local cities talk the talk but don't walk the walk when it comes to regulating smoking - including Duarte, the "City of Health," which got an F.

All but a few San Gabriel Valley cities and none in the Whittier area got higher than a C on the Lung Associations annual "State of Tobacco Control" report card, which based the scores on local ordinances restricting such things as smoking at public events, local parks and restaurants.

"Basically, we looked at what types of no-smoking ordinances cities have on their books" to come up with the grades, said Bo Smith, a spokesman for the American Lung Association. "It has less to do with how many people smoke in a particular city than `umph' of city councils voting for these restrictions."

In the Valley, only South Pasadena, which has passed tough no-smoking laws, including a ban on smoking in common areas in apartment and condo complexes that took effect in September, got an A from the organization.

The city was also one of the first in the Valley to bar smoking in public parks.

"South Pasadena is one of the cities that in the past couple of years has really turned things around," Smith said.

Coming in with B grades were Pasadena and Baldwin Park. Pasadena in recent years passed a local ordinance that prohibits smoking in outdoor malls, shopping areas and shopping centers, outdoor dining areas, service waiting lines, like lines at ATMs and movie theaters, and makes it illegal to light up within 20 feet of a main business entrance.

Baldwin Park also got high marks from the association for prohibiting smoking in public areas, including certain city owned buildings and public parks and recreation areas.

Monterey Park, San Gabriel and Sierra Madre got C grades from the association. But that was the extent of the positive local news from its study.

The bad news was that most Valley cities either have no ordinances on their books restricting public smoking, or very few local laws against it.

Azusa, Arcadia, Duarte, West Covina, Covina, El Monte, South El Monte, Glendora, Whittier, Temple City, Industry, La Puente, La Mirada, La Verne, Pico Rivera, Rosemead, San Dimas, San Marino, and Monrovia all got Fs from the Lung Association.

La Habra Heights and Montebello got Ds.

Duarte Assistant City Manager Karen Herrera said she recently met with a county health official who is working on a new no-smoking initiative with several local cities.

"What we want to do is have him come and make a presentation to the City Council," she said, adding the presentation could lead to the council considering taking a more aggressive stand against tobacco smoke.

"We're working with him on scheduling his presentation and pursuing a non-smoking policy," she said.

Whittier City Manager Steve Helvey sounded a bit defensive when told his city got an F on the Lung Association's report card.

"We've got a grade being given by an advocacy group. They want us to do what they want, not what the law requires. They're no different than any lobbying or advocacy group. I can't say the city is obliged to follow them."

But, Helvey noted, no one on the Whittier City Council smokes.

"None of their spouses smoke," he added.