San Diego Scores Poorly in American Lung Association's ‘State of Tobacco Control' Report

The American Lung Association in California released its annual “State of Tobacco Control” report Wednesday, which assigns grades to all California cities and counties based on key tobacco control policies

When it comes to key tobacco control policies in 2017, San Diego is lacking – earning a “D” grade in a study compiled by the American Lung Association.

The American Lung Association released its annual “State of Tobacco Control” report Wednesday, which assigns grades to all California cities and counties on how well they protect their citizens from tobacco.

San Diego received poor marks. The study shows San Diego, like many other cities across California, struggles with comprehensive tobacco control policies to prevent and reduce tobacco use and to limit exposure to secondhand smoke.

The American Lung Association said that while the City of San Diego got a “D” in the study, unincorporated San Diego County failed, receiving an “F.” 

In San Diego County, just two cities – El Cajon and Solana Beach – received “B” grades.

San Marcos, in San Diego’s North County, was also recognized in the report. The community was listed among the “Cities and Counties on the Rise” for passing an ordinance requiring retailers to obtain a license to sell tobacco and other electronic cigarette products. San Marcos scored a “C” overall, but an “A” in the category of reducing sales of tobacco products.

The study looked at four key categories: Smoke-free outdoor air, which examined efforts by communities to adopt local ordinances that restrict smoking in outdoor areas, from parks to sidewalk, to reduce exposure to secondhand smoke; Smoke-free housing, which examined efforts to reduce exposure to secondhand smoke in multi-unit housing; Reducing sales of tobacco products, which focused on efficient ways to reduce the availability and sales of tobacco products in the retail environment; Emerging issue bonus points, which looked at how cities and counties are adopting policies in new and challenging areas to reduce the prevalence of smoking in California and to combat how the tobacco industry promotes the use of tobacco.

Dr. Julie Ryu, Clinical Director of Pediatric Respiratory Medicine at Rady Children's Hospital-San Diego and a member of the American Lung Association in California San Diego Leadership Board, said there are many health risks associated with tobacco use and leaders must learn to recognize this.

“Tobacco-related illnesses remain the single most preventable cause of disease and death in California and we urge communities to institute policies to reduce smoking rates and exposure to secondhand smoke, and to protect our children from a lifetime of addiction,” Ryu said in a press release.

According to the study, more than 50 percent of California’s population lives in communities scoring a D or F. None of the top 10 most populous cities – including San Diego – scored an “A” grade.

But it’s not all bad grades across the state.

The American Lung Association said that for the first time in the history of the report, more than 20 cities and counties received an overall “A” grade for their tobacco control policies. This year’s report also saw 12 fewer “F” grades than before.

Statewide, California was one of the most improved states in 2016 in the State of Tobacco Control 2017 report.

The American Lung Association said this is, in part, to policies passed by the Legislature and signed by California Gov. Jerry Brown in 2016 including raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21, and the passing by voters of Proposition 56, which will raise taxes on a pack of cigarettes by $2, to $2.87 per pack starting in April.

Statewide, smoke-free air policies received an “A” – up from a “B” in 2016. Level of tobacco taxes got a “B,” up from an “F” last year. However, coverage and access to services to help smokers quit tobacco was graded with an “F.”

The State of Tobacco Control 2017 report issued grades for all 482 cities and 58 counties in California. To see the full report or check out how your community scored, click here.

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