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Lamorinda Gets a Tobacco Policy Grade of 'F'

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

Updated: 2:00 p.m. Wednesday, comments from Moraga and Lafayette governments.

The cities of Lafayette and Orinda and the town of Moraga all received F grades 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.

The Lafayette City Council has asked city staff to update the city's regulations. Recommendations should be on a council agenda in February, said Niroop Srivatsa, Lafayette planning and building manager. The current Lafayette regulations are under Chapter 5-3 in the city's online listing of laws and regulations.

Moraga Town Manager Jill Keimach said no residents have requested the Town Council issue anti-smoking regulations. "If this does become a concern by the community, it could be considered at a future date," she wrote in an email.

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.

The lung association report gives municipalities points for seven categories in regulating "smokefree outdoor area," five categories in regulating "smokefree housing," and four categories of "reducing sales of tobacco products." (See attached PDF.)

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.

El Cucuy January 16, 2013 at 08:33 PM
Interesting. Over the last 5 years, I can't remember a time when I've inhaled second hand smoke anywhere in Lamorinda. I can only conclude that there's an inverse correlation between the grades issued by the Lung Association and smoke-free outdoor air quality. As my grandpappy used to say, "if it ain't broke, don't waste time and money to regulate it." Here's the full report for CA: http://www.lung.org/associations/states/california/assets/pdfs/sotc-2013-county-grades/sotc-2013_full-ca-report_for.pdf
Amanda January 16, 2013 at 09:12 PM
I used to live in the apartments on 2nd Street in Lafayette. Pretty much everyone smoked there. The smoke came up through the floorboards, through the open windows from the deck below us, and people would stand in the breezeways and smoke. It was yuck. I'll take a neighbor's barking dog over second hand tobacco smoke.
CJ January 16, 2013 at 10:33 PM
Unless people are just smoking in secret hiding spots I just never see a smoker anywhere in Lamorinda, except maybe OS Peets and SBucks occasionally. As far as I can tell virtually nobody who lives here smokes.
El Cucuy January 16, 2013 at 11:34 PM
Amanda, Not to be glib, but doesn't the "right" of tenants to smoke depend upon the landlord? Most of the apartments I've lived in -- in Oakland, Berkeley, and Davis -- didn't allow smoking (although I don't know if that was the policy of the owner or the city). I liked it that way precisely because I didn't have to deal with the disgusting smell of cigarette smoke. Is it possible that the apartments you used to live in attracted smokers because it was one of the few places in Lamorinda that allowed smoking? Kind of like how pet owners flock to the select buildings that allow pets. Regardless, depending on the circumstances of where you live, even a homeowner could be forced to deal with more than just barking dogs. You might have smoke issues if you live in row housing, or an over-under duplex, or a townhome, or your bedroom window is five feet away from your neighbor's back porch. It's almost always a case of buyer -- or renter -- beware! Best, EC
lovelafayette January 17, 2013 at 03:40 AM
Your kids smoke tobacco, especially if you smoke. Many butts and empty cigarettes packs are found at the party spots in the community park, and I often see teens after school smoking. Ban tobacco sales within 1/2 mile of a Lafayette school and most of the tobacco outlets will be gone.
Amanda January 17, 2013 at 07:50 PM
Senor Boogeyman, I was just making a point. All that smoke was in my past. I am pretty sure there was no smoking allowed in that apartment complex, but there was also no prostitution, hoarding, child abuse and/or meth use allowed, but that didn't stop people from doing all of those. Glad I've moved on.
Wally Wallace January 17, 2013 at 08:40 PM
Quite often smokers stand along the outdoor stairs leading to the Orinda library & community center. To reach the doors, patrons have to walk through the second hand smoke clouds. That's true for children and adults.
Born and Raised January 17, 2013 at 09:11 PM
"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 other words because Lamorinda hasn't inundated its citizens with useless smoking regulations that they do not need, the "association" rated us with an "F". Of course the first thing the Lafayette City Council does is react with inacting regulations. Great, glad they're on the ball (sigh). Jill Keimach has it right.
jari January 18, 2013 at 05:59 AM
I own my condo unit in Moraga. My chain smoking, uncaring downstairs neighbors own their unit. I remember when they moved in, and my son was a baby, I cried and cried, fully knowing all of the second hand smoke that comes into our unit through many different ways. When the weather gets nice, I can't open the patio door, or my front, screened door and get the wonderful cross ventilation we had before they moved in. I have complained and complained, but since they own their property, there is nothing I can do. The matriarch is agoraphobic, never,ever leaves the house and smokes from the morning till 2 AM. Now, I hear her throwing up a lot..... Hey, I grew up with two chain smoking parents, and I know how it affected my breathing. My dad died of lung cancer. It is hard to believe that renters have better rights against smokers. I've been waiting for them to move for about 9 years now....
Born and Raised January 18, 2013 at 04:42 PM
@jari, Do you have an HOA? If so, that might be your best avenue to get results. What I don't understand is that if she's agoraphobic, she wouldn't be smoking outside where it would invade your space. How is it that the smoke is getting outside the condo she lives in and into your space?

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