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) joined civic leaders, medical professionals and local residents of the city of Richmond to release 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 www.stateoftobaccocontrol.org.

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 Los Angeles County, cities like Calabasas and Glendale highlight what can be – and has been – done when awareness is combined with commitment. Calabasas was the first city in the state to pass a comprehensive outdoor smoking ban and spurred efforts around the state to create smokefree outdoor spaces and multi-unit housing."

This  year  Calabasas  passed  a  tobacco  retailer  licensing  ordinance  to  raise  its  overall  grade  to  an  A, joining Glendale, Richmond and Albany as  the four cities  in the state with an A. In addition to boasting half of the overall A's in the state, the Los Angeles area is home to one-third of the overall B's.

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. Fifty-five cities in the Los Angeles area earned F's for failing to protect residents against the lethal effects of tobacco.

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 www.californialung.org/raisethegrade 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 www.californialung.org.

SOURCE American Lung Association in California



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