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Walnut Creek Gets a Tobacco Policy Grade of 'F'

American Lung Association gives cities grades in its 'State of Tobacco Control 2013' report.

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.

Cigarette tax

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.

AJ Buttacavoli January 17, 2013 at 02:11 AM
The main reason why Walnut Creek and other affluent cities have not enacted smoking ordinances is because affluent people generally do not smoke. I was just on the phone this morning with a health club in San Jose inquiring about policies and prices because the company is opening a branch in Walnut Creek and I was told that fees would be higher in Walnut Creek because it is a "pricy town".
APK January 18, 2013 at 01:42 PM
I live in an apartment in Walnut Creek and cannot use my outside area or keep my windows open in nice weather because I have someone who smokes living in the apartment below me. If I leave my windows open you would think that I smoke. Walnut Creek, please do something about your smoking laws.
Jaime J January 18, 2013 at 05:25 PM
The County and many other cities in Contra Costa and Alameda have adopted strong secondhand smoke protections laws that create smokefree outdoors and protect people from secondhand smoke in multi-unit housing. The Tobacco Prevention Coalition is actively working to advocate for stronger secondhand smoke protections in Walnut Creek. For more information about the Tobacco Prevention Coalition, email cctobaccopreventioncoalition@gmail.com or call (925) 313-6216.
One more time with feeling January 19, 2013 at 01:36 AM
The mayor and city council won't take a stand on illegal items (still nothing public about MAIG). One should not expect them to have a "knee-jerk reaction" on something legal...
One more time with feeling January 19, 2013 at 01:55 AM
@ AJ Buttacavoli I did a search using "Beverly Hills smoking ordinance". You can replace Beverly Hills with Tiburon, Malibu, Bulingame, Sausalito and many other "affluent cities" that have enacted smoking ordinances. Though I do agree there are a fair number that have not. I think enacting an appropriate smoking ordinance would have been much more "community minded" than wasting taxpayer $ turning the formerly pleasant Liberty Bell Plaza into an ugly storage facility.
Triple Canopy January 20, 2013 at 01:35 AM
WC City Council has better things to do than to enacting a smoking ordinance. I find it amusing that the anti-smoking people do not consider smoking marijuana as an act of smoking right. Or would such an ordinance be written to only restrict tobacco smoking? Smoking is bad for your health no matter what is rolled or stuffed in the pipe. PERIOD.

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