El Cerrito again has flunked the tobacco policy test.
The city received an F in the latest ratings, issued Wednesday, from the American Lung Association's annual "State of Tobacco Control 2013" report. Neighboring Richmond and Albany got As, as did unincorporated Contra Costa County.
El Cerrito received an F last year too.
The association released a California report that assigns a grade to the state's cities and counties on how well they are doing with tobacco control policies, including smoke-free outdoor environments, smoke-free housing and reducing the sale of tobacco products.
The report examined three categories: 1) outdoor smoking restrictions, 2) requirements for non-smoking units in multi-unit housing, and 3) local licensing and sales restrictions for retailers. Grades were given in each category, in addition to a cumulative grade. El Cerrito received an F in all three categories in addition to its overall F.
Most Caifornia localities received failing grades, 63 percent this year, a small improvement over last year's 66 percent.
In the East Bay, two cities improved their grades from last year: Dublin moved up to an A and Fremont rose to a B. Union City also was awarded an A this year, as it was last year.
The non-profit organization also released a national report that tracks progress on anti-smoking laws at the federal and state level.
“Cities and counties in California have always led the way with strong tobacco control policies and that continues to this day,” said Muntu Davis, MD, MPH, the Alameda County health officer. “It is great to see municipalities in the Bay Area passing innovative policies that protect people from second-hand smoke and keep tobacco products out of the hands of kids.”
On the flip side, the association gave 339 municipalities an F grade. That's 63 percent of the municipalities in California. That percentage is slightly lower than in previous years.
Los Angeles was awarded a C, while Fresno and Bakersfield were given F grades.
In the East Bay, cities receiving F grades included Clayton, Lafayette, Moraga, Orinda and Walnut Creek.
Lung association officials also noted California used to be a national leader in anti-smoking efforts, but now its efforts are lagging. The state earned an A grade for smoke-free air policies. However, it received a D for its low cigarette tax, an F for failing to adequately fund tobacco prevention and control programs, and another F for poor coverage of smoking cessation and treatment services.
Association officials said California has not increased its cigarette tax since 1999 and now ranks 33rd in the country at 87 cents per pack, compared to the national average of $1.48 per pack.
Association officials noted that although California receives $68 million in tobacco-related revenue annually, it spends a meager 15 percent of what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends to adequately fund tobacco prevention programs and services to help people quit smoking.
According to the U.S. Surgeon General, the failure of states to invest in policies and programs to reduce tobacco use has resulted in 3 million new young smokers in the United States. Every year in California, 34,400 kids start smoking while tobacco use causes an estimated 37,000 deaths annually and costs the state’s economy more than $18 billion in health care costs and lost productivity, the association reported.