The City of El Cerrito may get high marks for protecting the environment, but in protecting residents' lungs from tobacco smoke, it flunks, according to the American Lung Association.
El Cerrito is not alone. The organization gave an F grade to two-thirds of California's cities and counties in its newly released report, "State of Tobacco Control 2012 – California Local Grades." (A copy is attached to this article.) A's were relatively scarce, with only two percent of local governments receiving them.
Grades varied significantly by region. El Cerrito's two closest neighbors – Albany and Richmond – both received A's, while almost next-door Berkeley received a B. Among the Bay Area's three largest cities, San Francisco and Oakland received B's, and San Jose got a C.
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.
The report dealt with efforts by local governments, not private or non-profit groups, and covered all 482 of California's incorporated cities and towns as well as all 58 counties. The country grade reflects county government performance in unincorporated areas. Contra Costa County government received an A.
Contra Costa County's 20 local jurisdictions – 19 cities and the county government – as a whole scored better than the state. Fifty percent of the county's overall grades were F, compared to 66 percent for the state. Two overall A's were awarded in Contra Costa (Richmond and the county government) for 10 percent.
Alameda County scored significantly better than Contra Costa, with only seven percent of its 15 local governments scoring a F. Two scored A's (Albany and Union City).
Four jurisdictions in the state were lauded for improving their score by four grades over the year before. Three of them are in the Bay Area – Alameda, Larkspur and Sonoma County, all of whom rose from F to B. Comptom rose from D to A.
The report's executive summary highlights a comment from Jason Knowles, an American Lung Association volunteer from Sacramento:
“Nearly 90 percent of people who smoke start before the age of 18, including my mother who began smoking as a teenager and died too young from lung cancer. I do not want other families to suffer the same kind of loss. That’s why it is so important to pass policies that keep tobacco products out of the hands of kids.”
The state report was issued in conjunction with the national "The State of Tobacco Control" annual report. California was once a leader nationwide but has slipped significantly, the state report said.
"While California earned an A for smokefree air policies, the state receives an F for failing to adequately fund tobacco prevention and control programs, another F for poor coverage of smoking cessation treatments and services, and a D for its low cigarette tax," the lung association said. "Among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, California now ranks 33rd for its $.87 per pack tax, far below the national average of $1.46."