The American Lung Association in California released its annual “State of Tobacco Control” report, which assigns grades to all California cities and counties, including Sonoma County, on key tobacco control policies.
Sonoma County and its cities earned almost all As and Bs as an overall grade, with Cloverdale receiving the only C. Sonoma is one of only four counties in California to have no Ds or Fs in its overall grades. Windsor raised its overall grade to an A.
The report reveals that California again leads the nation in efforts to reduce and prevent tobacco use. The study shows that tobacco use remains the nation’s leading cause of preventable death and disease, taking an estimated 480,000 lives every year.
While California received solid grades in many areas, an emerging trend of concern is youth e-cigarette use reaching epidemic levels, due to a 78 percent increase in high school e-cigarette use from 2017 to 2018, according to results from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey. According to the report, this equals 1 million additional people under the age of 18 beginning to use e-cigarettes, placing their developing bodies and lungs at risk. This has caused the U.S. Surgeon General to declare e-cigarette use among young people an epidemic in an advisory issued in December.
“We are proud that California continues to make progress in addressing the lung health of its people,” said Lindsey Freitas, senior director of advocacy for the American Lung Association in California. “By passing a strong tobacco tax in 2016, continuing to support coverage of smoking cessation programs and other key ‘quit tools’ and standing up to the billions spent in lobbying by Big Tobacco, the state remains a leading nationwide advocate for healthy lungs and clean air.”
The report grades states and the federal government on policies proven to prevent and reduce tobacco use, and finds that California is among the top states in the nation in several key areas, though key to maintaining and further improvement hinge on the continued efforts of state, county and local officials to continue to enact strict measures to prevent youth smoking, e-cigarette use and multi-unit housing protections.
In conjunction with the national report, the American Lung Association in California released its companion State of Tobacco Control 2019 – California Local Grades report, which issues grades for all 482 cities and 58 counties in California on local tobacco control policies. Highlights from this year’s report include: Eight communities improved their overall grade to an A from last year, California now has a total of 39 communities with an overall A grade, and over half of the policies passed in 2018 included updated definitions of secondhand smoke and/or tobacco products to include emerging products such as electronic cigarettes.
According to the report, the Bay Area and the surrounding counties are the leading the way in tackling the vaping epidemic and protecting our youth from a lifetime of nicotine addiction. Twelve out of the 14 policies passed in 2018 restricting the sale of flavored tobacco came from communities in Northern California.
This year’s most improved city was Half Moon Bay in San Mateo County improving their overall tobacco grade from an F to an A. However the report also states that half of California’s population still live in communities scoring a D or F.
And the tobacco industry has undertaken an unprecedented proactive strategy to push back against local efforts. Last year, RJ Reynolds spent close to $12 million to unsuccessfully challenge a local ordinance in San Francisco that banned flavored cigarettes including menthol. Overall, Sonoma County earned a grade of A. Eight new communities statewide received a grade of A for 2018, including Windsor.
Windsor was also designated as a “Community on the Rise,” due to improving its grade from B to A, reducing the sale of tobacco products and passing ordinances that eliminate the sale of flavored tobacco products and requiring a minimum pack size for cigars. Rohnert Park was the only other Sonoma County city to receive the “Community on the Rise” designation.
Statewide, six percent of the population lives in a community receiving an A grade, 14 percent in a B community, 31 percent in a C grade community, 15 percent in a D community and 35 percent in an F. According to the report, the American Lung Association in California established local tobacco control grades in four categories that reflect where local action is needed and where the greatest public health benefit can be derived. The three tobacco control policy grades that are assigned to each city and county are: Smokefree Outdoor Air; Smokefree Housing; and Reducing Sales of Tobacco Products. These three grades plus Emerging Issues Bonus Points are then used to calculate an Overall Tobacco Control grade for each municipality.
An “n/a” or “not applicable” score is given to municipalities in which it is not possible to adopt a specific type of policy due to a complete lack of the entity that is being graded. For example, if a city or county doesn’t have any stores that sell tobacco products, then the city is awarded an n/a as opposed to 0 points in the Reducing Sales of Tobacco Products category, and the grading scales are adjusted accordingly. Below is a description of each of the grading categories, a summary of the relevant state laws and an explanation of the grade criteria. The Overall Tobacco Control grade is a letter grade awarded to the municipality based on its grades in the three categories, plus Emerging Issues Bonus Points. To determine the Overall Tobacco Control grade, the city or county is given a point value for each of its grades in the three categories (Smokefree Outdoor Air, Smokefree Housing, Reducing Sales of Tobacco Products) as follows: A=4; B=3; C=2; D=1; and F=0. These three point values are then added together, along with the Emerging Issues Bonus Points section (3 or more bonus points = 1 additional point), for a total point value for the Overall Tobacco Control grade. The total points are turned into grades based on a scale of: A (11-12); B (8-10); C (5-7); D (2-4); and F (0-1).
Healdsburg has an overall tobacco control grade of B. With a B for smokefree outdoor air, a D for smokefree housing, an A for reducing sales of tobacco products, and bonus points for sale of tobacco products in pharmacies and emerging products definitions for secondhand smoke and licensing.
Unincorporated Sonoma County received grades of A in smokefree outdoor air, smokefree housing, and reducing sales of tobacco products. It gained four bonus points for retailer locations restrictions, sales of tobacco products in pharmacies and emerging products definitions for licensing and secondhand smoke.