Tobacco Prevention Weak in S.B. County

Report Gives Failing Grades for Cigarette Tax, Prevention, Treatment Services

Tobacco prevention efforts are weak in California and most of Santa Barbara County, according to national and regional reports by the nonprofit American Lung Association (ALA). The organization, dedicated to reducing tobacco-related disease and death, released the 2016 State of Tobacco Control and California Local Grades reports Wednesday, which gave the state failing grades for a low cigarette tax, underfunded tobacco prevention programs, and poorly promoted treatment services. California earned a “B” for enforcing smoking restrictions in the workplace and at public schools, restaurants, retail stores, and recreational areas, among other places.

Six cities in S.B. County received overall tobacco prevention grades of “D” and “F.” Assigned annually, the rankings are based on whether or not state and municipal laws “adequately [protect] citizens from the enormous toll tobacco use takes on lives and the economy,” stated the report.

The cities of Santa Barbara and Buellton were given overall tobacco control grades of “D,” while Guadalupe, Lompoc, Santa Maria, and Solvang each received an “F.” Goleta earned a “C”; Carpinteria and unincorporated county areas a “B.” The City of Santa Barbara received straight “D” grades in three ALA evaluation categories — smoke-free outdoor air, smoke-free housing, and reducing tobacco sales. In the “Emerging Issues” category, focused on flavored tobacco products like vapes and e-cigarettes, the city received zero points, equivalent to an “F.”

Despite its low scores, the county was among one of the 82 “Cities and Counties on the Rise” for its laws on smoke-free housing, smoke-free outdoor areas, and classification of vapes and e-cigarettes as tobacco products subject to second-hand smoke regulations. The regional report gave Carpinteria grades of “A” for strengthening tobacco retail licensing and restricting smoking in outdoor entryways and recreational, dining, and service areas.

“Nearly a quarter of high school students are using tobacco products, and use of e-cigarettes is at an all-time high,” said Dr. David Tom Cook, a lung surgeon and member of the ALA’s California Governing Board in Wednesday’s press release. Since 1999, California has not raised its tobacco tax from 87 cents per pack, leaving the state ranked 35th in the country, according to the organization. Also in the press release, the ALA added it is working with Saves Lives California — a coalition of nonprofit health organizations — to place a $2 tobacco tax on the state’s November 2016 ballot.

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