Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States and in California. To address this enormous toll, the American Lung Association in California calls for the following actions to be taken by our elected officials:
- Reduce smoking initiation rates by restricting flavored tobacco products, including menthol;
- Protect residents in public housing from unwanted exposure to secondhand smoke; and
- Support local-level policies that restrict tobacco use in multi-unit housing.
After a banner year for tobacco control in 2016, the Lung Association in California spent 2017 building on these successes and continued to make important strides toward a future free from the harms of tobacco. In April, California's $2.00 per pack tobacco tax increase went into effect and, as a result, both tobacco sales and cigarette pack distributions have significantly decreased. In addition, with expected additional tobacco tax revenue of $100 to $130 million going toward tobacco prevention and cessation programs, the tax will allow California to make significant progress towards its goal of reducing tobacco-related health disparities.
In 2017, the Lung Association fought in the California Legislature to prohibit smoking at state parks and beaches, to ensure that those living in public housing were not exposed to unwanted secondhand smoke or e-cigarette emissions, and prohibit the use of tobacco industry coupons and discounts. These attempts were met with fierce resistance and the policies were watered down and ultimately failed. However, important discussions were had which will lead to future successes.
Additionally, multiple California communities continued the push toward local-level restrictions on flavored and menthol tobacco products. San Francisco became the largest city in the country to prohibit all sales of flavored tobacco, including menthol. This represents a landmark turning point in the effort to eliminate flavored tobacco products which are targeted at youth, young adults, African Americans, and the LGBTQ community. However, in an unprecedented and very public move, the tobacco industry successfully petitioned to bring this policy to the ballot for a vote in June 2018. Thankfully, this has not slowed momentum on this issue as a number of communities in California especially in the Bay Area have continued to adopt restrictions on all flavored tobacco products, including Oakland and Contra Costa County.
Many of our local communities are also making important strides toward a future free of tobacco-related disease. In 2017, communities such as Beverly Hills and Laguna Beach adopted strong policies to protect their citizens from unwanted secondhand smoke.
Through these efforts to pass strong local and statewide laws, California will continue to prevent kids from ever picking up their first cigarette, motivate current smokers to quit, and fight for better treatments and cures for lung diseases that result from, or are exacerbated by, tobacco use.