Lung Association Says It's Time to Raise the Grade, as California Earns Mixed Results in Tobacco Policy Report Card

Jan 12, 2010, 13:30 ET from American Lung Association in California

American Lung Association in California Grades More than 400 of the State's Cities and Counties on How Well They Are Protecting Their Citizens from Tobacco

RICHMOND, Ca., Jan. 12 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- American Lung Association in California (ALAC) today released its annual State of Tobacco Control report card for cities and counties throughout the state of California. Municipalities were graded on their ordinances covering smokefree outdoor environments, smokefree housing and tobacco sales reductions.

The ALAC report coincides with the release of the State of Tobacco Control 2009 national report card that grades the federal government, all 50 states and the District of Columbia.  A full copy of the national report is available at

Citing mixed results at every level for the state, ALAC President and CEO Jane Warner said, "It's time to raise the grade. For all Californians, strong tobacco control policies must be a top priority."

Once a national leader in battling the lethal effects of tobacco, California again received an F for the state's failure to adequately fund tobacco prevention and control programs, currently at less than one-fifth the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-recommended level. While the report gave California high marks for state laws that protect the public from secondhand smoke in enclosed public places and workplaces, the state received D's for its failure to raise the tobacco tax and provide cessation treatment and services to help people quit smoking. Among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, California now ranks 32nd for its $.87 per pack tax, far below the national average of $1.34.

With nearly 4 million smokers in California, tobacco use continues to take a significant toll on public health and taxpayer dollars. Tobacco remains the number one preventable cause of death in California, claiming an estimated 36,684 lives annually. That's more people lost to tobacco use than alcohol, HIV/AIDS, car crashes, illegal drugs, murders and suicides combined. For the state, the costs of tobacco use top more than $18 billion every year.

Fortunately, many individual communities are making headway on this critical issue. More than 370 cities across California have been graded on (1) Smokefree Outdoor Air; (2) Smokefree Housing; and (3) Reducing Sales of Tobacco Products. These three grades have been averaged for one overall local tobacco control grade.

"The stakes are too high to gamble with complacency," said Warner. "In San Diego County, cities like Solana Beach and El Cajon highlight what can be – and has been – done when awareness is combined with commitment."

In 2009, Solana Beach enacted both comprehensive outdoor smokefree policies and strong tobacco retail licensing laws. The new laws helped Solana Beach leap from an F last year to a B, joining El Cajon the fifth most populous city in the San Diego region to earn a B. Del Mar also enacted comprehensive smokefree outdoor policies to improve from an F to a D. National City's passage of a smoke-free outdoor dining law raised its grade from an F to a D.

Two former hold outs, Escondido and Vista, enacted smokefree parks and recreation areas policies, leaving Santee the only city in the San Diego region that has not yet passed secondhand smoke protections for these outdoor areas.

While many other cities and counties around the state adopted strong tobacco control policies and improved their grades, a majority of municipalities are failing to protect their residents from the dangers of tobacco use. Seven cities in the region maintained Fs from last year to this.

In total, 271 cities and county unincorporated areas received an F for their overall grade. Complete report cards for all 373 cities and 34 counties may be accessed at along with complete scoring criteria.

"Like so many issues in California, local communities are leading the way. We are hopeful that state and local leaders can learn from these grades and the tobacco control efforts of others around the state," added Warner. "The American Lung Association will continue to work with state and local leaders and advocates to pass effective tobacco control policies and raise the grades."

ALAC is working tirelessly to improve California's grades

The American Lung Association in California is co-sponsoring the California Cancer Research Act, a November 2010 ballot initiative that will raise the state's cigarette tax by $1.00 per pack and fund cancer research and tobacco prevention and control programs.

An increase in the tobacco tax will save lives, prevent youth from starting to smoke, encourage smokers to quit and lower health care costs from tobacco-related diseases. In fact, research shows that for every 10 percent increase in the cost of a pack of cigarettes, there is a 7 percent decline in youth smoking.

"We ask California voters to stand with us against Big Tobacco," said Paul Knepprath, ALAC vice president of advocacy and health issues. "We are committed to providing much-needed funding for tobacco prevention and control programming and research to reverse the damaging effects of our nation's number one killer. We ask California voters to help us qualify and pass the initiative in November."

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

SOURCE American Lung Association in California