The national report tracks progress on key tobacco control policies at the federal and state levels, assigning grades based on whether laws are adequately protecting citizens from the enormous toll tobacco use takes on lives and the economy.
In conjunction with the national report, the American Lung Association in California released its State of Tobacco Control 2013 – California Local Grades, which issues grades for all cities and counties in California on local tobacco control policies including those for smokefree outdoor environments, smokefree housing, and reducing sales of tobacco products. To view the complete California report, including grades for cities in the Central Coast, visit www.lung.org/california.
San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara County received the top grades in the region with an overall tobacco control grade of B. In addition, San Luis Obispo County and the municipalities of Arroyo Grande, Camarillo, Carpinteria, Santa Barbara, and Grover Beach all received an overall C grade. Grades were mixed throughout, highlighting the need for local officials to protect Central Coast residents from tobacco-related death and disease.
“No matter how big or small the city or county, local tobacco control policies save lives and money,” said Marsha Ramos, Chair, American Lung Association in California Governing Board. “Safeguarding our communities from the negative consequences of tobacco is critical. We know how to win the fight against tobacco, but it requires strong leadership and action by elected officials at all levels.”
Once a national leader in tobacco control policies, California’s efforts are now lagging. While the state earned an A grade for smokefree air policies, 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.
Exacerbating California’s weakened position on tobacco prevention, the state has not increased its cigarette tax since 1999 and now ranks 33rd in the country at 87 cents per pack, compared to the US average of $1.48 per pack. States including Texas, Oklahoma and Montana now have higher tobacco taxes than California.
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 youth 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 healthcare costs and lost productivity - a tremendous burden that the state cannot afford.
“The California Legislature must make it a priority to pass a tobacco tax and invest the money in California’s pioneering tobacco prevention program,” said Ramos. “Tobacco taxes for tobacco prevention will save the state billions of dollars in health care costs while preventing kids from ever beginning to smoke and helping current smokers quit.”
Despite progress at the local level, California joins many other states in neglecting to implement proven strategies to save lives and reduce tobacco-caused disease. This year’s State of Tobacco Control report shows that money is often at the root of the leading cause of preventable death, as state policymakers fail to fight tobacco interests.
A tobacco industry contributions report by the American Lung Association in California’s Center for Tobacco Policy & Organizing shows that tobacco interests spent nearly $5 million during the first year of the 2011-2012 election cycle (January 2011-June 2012) to influence state legislators and policies in California. In addition, Big Tobacco spent more than $46 million to defeat Proposition 29 in June 2012, which would have increased California’s cigarette tax by $1.00 per pack and directed over $600 million annually to cancer research, tobacco prevention and quit smoking programs.
“We need to do more to fight the influence of tobacco interests in California politics,” said Ramos. “It’s time for the California Legislature to remove Big Tobacco’s welcome mat. Our state elected officials have an opportunity to change course in 2013 and make big strides in the fight to end tobacco-caused death and disease. It’s going to take a great deal of political will, but we are confident our elected officials are up to the challenge. Our children’s health is depending on them.”
About the American Lung Association:
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.lung.org/california.