Napa gets 'F' for tobacco control

(January 21, 2011)

napa-valley-register

January 21, 2011


Napa County has received failing grades from the American Lung Association in California for its lack of tobacco control policies in grades released Thursday. This is the third year that Napa has received such low marks.

The association’s annual “State of Tobacco Control” report measures cities and counties for the number of ordinances that regulate smoke-free outdoor environments, smoke-free housing and reduce the sale of tobacco products.

Napa County has only a few local anti-smoking ordinances — bans on smoking in parks in Napa, American Canyon and St. Helena.

Napa County is not alone: two-thirds of counties received failing grades, according to the lung association.The report looks at the numbers of laws and ordinances on the books in counties and municipalities, said Pam Granger, the North Bay coordinator for the lung association in California. “And there are very few laws that are on the books in Napa that regulate either exposure to secondhand smoke or sale of tobacco products.” 

She said the grades do not, however, reflect the efforts of tobacco control advocates working to push smoke-free policies.

“Napa itself has done some pretty amazing things which are not showing up on this policy report card,” Granger said. 

Peggy Klick, the program director of Community Action for Napa Valley Tobacco Education Program, pointed to “behind the scenes” work to curb smoking.

She cited voluntary efforts to reduce secondhand smoke exposure in multi-unit housing, as well as a smoking cessation grant program and a smokers helpline.

In its report, the lung association targeted areas that fall outside the jurisdiction of state government. California already has strict laws regulating secondhand smoke in the workplace and other indoor areas.

The agency is pushing for restriction on smoking in outdoor dining areas, for example. The association intends to put pressure on lawmakers to enact the ordinances. 

Both Klick and Connie Moreno-Peraza, the deputy director of Napa’s Health and Human Services Agency, said Napa leaders have been very receptive to such ordinances.

The county report was issued the same day as the lung association’s national report, which evaluated federal and state policies. Statewide, California also received a mixed report card.

Thursday’s ratings follow a recently released 2008 survey by the California Department of Public Health, which found that adult smoking in Napa County is on the rise.

Some 16 percent of Napa County adults smoked cigarettes in 2008 — a jump from 13.4 percent in 2005, according to California Tobacco Survey data.

Napa County had the Bay Area’s second highest smoking rate. Only Sonoma County, at 16.4 percent, was higher. Marin County, at 7.3 percent, was the Bay Area’s lowest.

Overall, smoking rates are higher in rural communities and generally drop as residents’ incomes and education levels rise, according to study data. 

In 1990, 19.7 percent of Napa County adults smoked cigarettes, California Tobacco Survey results show.

Napa County’s higher than average smoking rate “highlights the urgency of passing policies to protect citizens from unwanted exposure to second-hand smoke,” Granger said. 

“If you’ve got a lot of smokers, that means the non-smokers need more help,” she said.