Report burns Valley for weak anti-smoking laws
The battle to reduce tobacco use has all but stalled in most cities and counties in the Central Valley.
Those were the findings of the American Lung Association State of Tobacco Control 2014 report released last month. Fifty years after the first Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health was issued on Jan. 11, 1964, the Lung Association’s new report finds that our nation as a whole must renew its commitment to eliminate tobacco-caused death and disease.
All eight Tulare County cities received an overall ‘F’ for their tobacco control grade, scoring a zero in every category under the headings “Smokefree Housing” and Reducing Sales of Tobacco Products.” The only points scored in Tulare County were under the heading of “Smokefree Outdoor Air.” In the “Recreation Areas” category, Lindsay scored a 2, meaning smoking is prohibited in some parks but no all recreation areas. Exeter received the highest score of any city in any category with a 4, meaning all recreation areas are 100% smokefree. In 2007, the Exeter City Council banned smoking in any outdoor area owned or operated by the city and open to the general public for recreational purposes including parklands, picnic areas, playgrounds, sportsfields, walking paths, gardens, hiking and nature trails, bike paths horseback riding trails, athletic fields, skateboard parks and amusement parks as well as parking lots.
The city of Firebaugh again received the top grade in the region with an overall tobacco control grade of C. Fresno, the most populous city in the region, received an overall F grade for its tobacco control policies. Grades were mixed throughout, as the report highlighted the need for local officials to better protect Central Valley residents from tobacco-related death and disease.
“Despite great strides in reducing smoking rates in America, there is still much work to be done here in Central Valley,” Anita Lee, Interim CEO of the American Lung Association in California. “Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and illness in the U.S. We must renew our commitment to stopping tobacco from robbing another generation of their health,” Lee urged.
The State of Tobacco Control 2014 report tracks yearly progress on key tobacco control policies at the federal and state levels, assigning grades based on whether laws are adequately protecting citizens from the enormous toll tobacco use takes on lives and the economy. This year’s report highlights the 50thanniversary of the historic 1964 Surgeon General’s report that linked smoking to lung cancer and other diseases for the first time.
In conjunction with the national report, the American Lung Association in California released its State of Tobacco Control 2014 – California Local Grades, which issues grades for all 482 cities and 58 counties in California on local tobacco control policies. To view the complete California report, including grades for cities and counties in the Central Valley, visit www.lung.org/california
Once a national leader in tobacco control policies, California is now falling behind in protecting its citizens from tobacco. While the state earned an A grade for smokefree air policies, it received a D for its low cigarette tax, an F for failing to sufficiently fund tobacco prevention and control programs, and another F for poor coverage of smoking cessation and treatment services.
Many municipalities throughout California have passed local ordinances to protect their communities from the harmful effects of tobacco, despite the lack of action at the state level. In 2013, a total of 40 cities and counties adopted new policies. However, while many communities took action to improve their grades, a total of 330 cities and counties throughout the state – more than 60% of all municipalities – received an F for their overall tobacco grade.
“The policies reflected in this report demonstrate the leadership at the local level to ensure that all Californians breathe clean and healthy air,” said Marsha Ramos, Chair, American Lung Association in California Governing Board. “No matter how big or small the city or county, local tobacco control policies saves lives. Tobacco use continues to take a toll on the lives of both adults and kids, so these grades represent real health consequences.”
In the 50 years since the first Surgeon General’s report, 8 million lives were saved because of tobacco control efforts. In 1964, the national smoking rate was at 42 percent, more than double today’s rate of 18 percent.
Despite these improvements and progress shown at the local level, tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of death in the nation. In California, tobacco use causes an estimated 36,000 deaths annually. More than 30,000 kids start smoking each year in the state, and tobacco use costs the state’s economy $18.1 billion in combined health care and lost productivity – a tremendous burden that California cannot afford.
Meanwhile, the tobacco industry continued its ruthless pursuit of addicting new users and keeping current users from quitting in 2013. This included efforts at the federal and state levels to exempt their products from meaningful public health protections.
The three largest cigarette manufacturers—Altria, Reynolds American, and Lorillard—continued their aggressive expansion into tobacco products other than cigarettes in 2013. As cigarette use continues to gradually decline, these companies continue to maintain their stranglehold on America’s youth and reap profits from smokeless tobacco, cigars and now e-cigarettes.
“I urge everyone to join the American Lung Association in California and renew their commitment to preventing another 50 years of tobacco caused death and disease,” said Ramos.
About the American Lung Association in California
Now in its second century, the American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease. With your generous support, the American Lung Association is “Fighting For Air” through research, education and advocacy. For more information about the American Lung Association or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872) or visit www.lung.org/california