Adopting and enforcing anti-smoking legislation for tobacco prevention in California needs improvement, according to the annual State of Tobacco Control report issued earlier this month by the American Lung Association of California.
The report graded 373 cities and 34 counties in California based on three categories: (1) smoke-free air, (2) smoke-free housing and (3) reducing sales of tobacco products. These factors were averaged to produce the city’s overall score.
Davis received an ‘A’ for smoke-free air and reducing sales of tobacco products. The city received a D in smoke-free housing, giving Davis an overall B grade.
Unincorporated areas of Yolo County did not do as well, as the county’s overall score was a D. Neighboring city Woodland received a D and Winters, an F.
Only four cities received an overall A grade – Richmond, Glendale, Albany and Calabasas. Davis was one of 15 cities in California that scored a B. Others included Oakland, Santa Monica and Belmont.
Major cities like Sacramento, San Francisco and Los Angeles all received C’s and 271 cities received an F.
“These results are disappointing,” said Paul Knepprath, vice president of advocacy and health initiatives for ALAC. “It shows we need to make a more united effort against Big Tobacco here in California. The majority of cities throughout California need to be less reluctant in recognizing this as a problem.”
Knepprath believes these three categories provide the best criteria to achieve policy change.
“We hope this report encourages leadership where improvement is needed,” Knepprath said. “There is no downside for city officials to adopt anti-smoking legislation, since it is an unhealthy and unpopular habit.”
Anti-smoking organizations like ALAC say they are at a tremendous disadvantage due to the vast resources available to tobacco companies.
The Campaign for TobaccoFree-Kids reported tobacco companies spend over $800,000,000 annually on marketing their product in California. State government, on the other hand, spends $79,000,000 in anti-smoking efforts per year.
Steve Jensen, the program coordinator of tobacco education at Yolo County health offices said the most effective goal would be to invest more money directly into prevention programs.
“Preventing someone from ever starting to smoke is much more effective than trying to help people quit,” Jensen said.
Currently, only 25 cents from each pack of cigarettes goes towards prevention programs.
Jensen, however, believes because the ALAC report is based on policy only it does not necessarily indicate the progress cities have made.
Nonetheless, Jensen and Knepprath both noticed Davis has been ahead of the curve for comprehensive smoking bans in the region.
“Davis has been passing policies long before it was the thing to do,” he said. “They strongly enforce the retail licensing laws, and have city codes that protect outdoor events, like the Farmers Market.”
Between 1989 and 2004, during the first 15 years of California’s campaign for tobacco control, an estimated $86,000,000,000 was saved in health care costs, according to a study done in 2008 at the UC San Francisco Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education.
Those on the other end of the debate are tobacco companies, such as Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds, that declined to comment.
ALAC placed a ballot initiative for the November 2010 elections to raise the cigarette tax by $1 in California, in addition to providing more funds for tobacco prevention and control programs.
MICHAEL STEPANOV can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.