Napa County made minuscule progress on its yearly report card from the American Lung Association, earning a D grade for its tobacco control policies. Last year, the county received an F.
The American Lung Association’s annual State of Tobacco Control report measures cities and counties for the number of ordinances that regulate smoke-free outdoor environments and smoke-free housing and reduce the sale of tobacco products.
Several nearby counties fared better in their overall tobacco control grades, with Sonoma County receiving a B, and Marin and Contra Costa counties both earning A’s.
Napa County has received several F grades in past tobacco control reports. The county earned a D this year thanks to new ordinances that further ban smoking in county and city parks.
Pam Granger, a tobacco programs manager for the Lung Association, blamed elected officials for dropping the ball on tobacco control. Granger said she hoped clean and healthy air would become a priority for Napa County’s elected officials in 2013.
“There’s quite a bit of room for improvement,” Granger said.
Restricting smoking in outdoor dining areas, for example, is one area where Napa County could raise its grade, she said. As one of the country’s top culinary destinations, Granger said Napa County should make it a priority to protect patrons and restaurant employees from the dangers of secondhand smoke.
Peggy Klick, director of Community Action Napa Valley’s Tobacco Education and Quit Smoking programs, said that policies take time to develop, and elected officials are not to blame. She faulted the report for not taking Napa’s voluntary efforts into account.
Beginning in 2001, the Napa Tobacco Education Program developed a campaign to increase the number of voluntary smoke-free outdoor dining areas. By the end of 2004, 25 restaurants established formal, written policies related to non-smoking outdoor areas, Klick said. The latest numbers show 45 restaurants have smoke-free outdoor dining policies, she said.
At least 20 apartment complexes in Napa County also have voluntarily developed smoking bans, Klick said.
Many apartment complexes developed smoke-free policies thanks to Senate Bill 332, which went into effect last year. The bill gave landlords the specific power to ban smoking not only inside rental housing, but from the surrounding grounds.
The American Lung Association’s county report was issued the same day as its national report, which evaluates federal and state policies. In 2012, 45 California cities and counties adopted new tobacco control policies.
But another 341 cities and counties — 63 percent of all jurisdictions in the state — received an F.
“Once a national leader in tobacco control policies, California’s efforts are now lagging,” according to the lung association.
The state earned failing grades for inadequately funding tobacco prevention and control programs and for its low cigarette tax. California ranks 33rd in the country for its 87-cents-per-pack tax, far below the national average of $1.48. States such as Texas, Oklahoma and Montana now have higher tobacco taxes than California, according to the lung association.
“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 Marsha Ramos, chair, American Lung Association in California Governing Board. “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.”