O.C. flunks for bans on smoking

(January 21, 2011)

The Orange County Register

January 21, 2011


Most Orange County cities earn a failing grade for not passing laws to ban smoking on sidewalks or in apartment complexes.

The American Lung Association this week released state rankings for efforts to limit tobacco use and exposure to second-hand smoke, as well as breakdowns for each county in California.

Locally, most cities received a D or F for overall efforts in three categories: restricting outdoor smoking, smoke-free housing and reducing tobacco sales. The highest overall marks went to Laguna Hills and Laguna Woods, who each got a C. In the area of outdoor smoking, the two cities received As for their regulations. In the sales category, only Santa Ana received an A for licensing tobacco retailers. No Orange County city received higher than a D for limiting smoking in apartment and condo complexes.

Paul Knepprath, vice president for advocacy and health initiatives for the lung association in California, said cities and counties have a lot of latitude in regulating smoking. For instance, they can ban smoking on outdoor restaurant patios, require non-smoking units in apartment complexes and prohibit pharmacies from selling tobacco products.

"We've set the bar high," Knepprath said. "We know if we can achieve those grades, get them to As, we will create healthier communities."

In all, 67 percent of California cities received a failing grade. The rankings apply to 2010.

Earlier this week, the Laguna Woods City Council voted to ban smoking on open patios and balconies for residents of apartments and condominiums.

According to the lung association, 13 percent of California adults smoke, at a cost of $18 billion a year.

California received an A for smoke-free air, but earned Fs for smoking prevention and cessation programs because of low funding. The state received a D for tobacco tax, which is 87 cents a pack and has not increased since 1999. The national average is $1.45.

The lung association has co-sponsored a statewide ballot initiative that would raise the tax by one dollar to fund cancer research and tobacco prevention. The measure will go before voters during the next election either in June or next February.