The city of Walnut Creek received a F grade in rankings issued Wednesday in the American Lung Association's annual "State of Tobacco Control 2013" report.
The association released a California report that assigns a grade to the state's cities and counties on how well they are doing with tobacco control policies, including smoke-free outdoor environments, smoke-free housing and reducing the sale of tobacco products.
In recent years, there has been some discussion of a downtown smoking ordinance in Walnut Creek.
In the East Bay, the cities receiving "A" grades were Dublin, Union City, Albany and Richmond. The unincorporated region of Contra Costa County also received an "A" grade. Dublin was applauded for passing a comprehensive anti-smoking policy last year. Pleasant Hill received a B grade.
Concord received a C grade. in a roughly 17-block diameter around Todos Santos Plaza after downtown business owners had complained about the nuisance of cigarette smoke. However, a commenter on the Concord Patch Facebook page says the ban is not well enforced. Another commenter, Jennifer Stout, says the grade doesn't seem fair since smokers tend to "light up anywhere" despite the rules.
In the East Bay, cities receiving "F" grades included Clayton, Lafayette, Moraga, Orinda and Walnut Creek.
The non-profit organization also released a national report that tracks progress on anti-smoking laws at the federal and state level.
“Cities and counties in California have always led the way with strong tobacco control policies and that continues to this day,” said Muntu Davis, MD, MPH, the Alameda County health officer. “It is great to see municipalities in the Bay Area passing innovative policies that protect people from second-hand smoke and keep tobacco products out of the hands of kids.”
On the flip side, the association gave 339 municipalities an "F" grade. That's 63 percent of the municipalities in California. That percentage is slightly lower than in previous years.
Oakland and San Francisco both received "B" grades. Los Angeles was awarded a "C" while Fresno and Bakersfield were given "F" grades.
Lung association officials also noted California used to be a national leader in anti-smoking efforts, but now its efforts are lagging. The state earned an A grade for smoke-free air policies. However, 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.
Association officials said California has not increased its cigarette tax since 1999 and now ranks 33rd in the country at 87 cents per pack, compared to the national average of $1.48 per pack.
Association officials noted that 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 young 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 health care costs and lost productivity, the association reported.