They didn’t know they were being graded, but Sonomans got an “F” anyway for not doing enough about smoking.
The failing grade comes from a report released Wednesday by the American Lung Association that seeks to assess how much, or how little, cities and counties are doing to curb smoking based on local legislative efforts.
For example, Marin County gets an “A” for its robust anti-smoking rules, according to the report titled “State of Tobacco Control 2014.” Those rules include a 2012 ordinance prohibiting smoking at all public places within county jurisdiction. In addition, at least 80 percent of guest rooms at all hotels and motels within unincorporated Marin County “must be permanently designated as completely non-smoking,” the ordinance states.
Despite such rules, “The battle to reduce tobacco use has all but stalled in most cities and counties in the North Coast,” the association said in a statement released Wednesday along with the report. And while the county of Sonoma received a “B” for its anti-smoking efforts, the city got a lowly “F,” with virtually no points awarded in any of several categories.
It joins two other towns in the county, Cloverdale and Cotati, that “haven’t done really any updates since the mid-’90s” when it comes to regulating smoking, said Pam Granger, north coast advocacy manager of the American Lung Association in California. “I can’t really tell you why that is.”
The American Lung Association calculated its grades by assessing cities and counties in three main categories: “smoke-free outdoor air,” “smoke-free housing” and “reducing sales of tobacco products.” Granger said the grades “are based solely on legislative policies” and don’t reflect any volunteer work that is being done in a particular community.
They also don’t seem to reflect the amount of actual smoking going on in these cities and counties, focusing instead on the “political will” of the local governments.
City Council member Ken Brown agreed the political will isn’t quite there in Sonoma, noting that in the past citizens have “tried to pass a law to ban smoking in the Plaza. But that didn’t fly.” Brown himself opposes such a law.
He added, “I’m not a big fan of grades from people who don’t live here and really don’t know the city or city government.” Brown said he considers Sonoma’s smokers to be “polite and responsive” to non-smokers, making rules governing the activity less necessary.
And yet, “More people still die from tobacco use than from anything else” in the United States, Granger said. “And it doesn’t have to be that way.” She said California’s smoking rate is currently around 12 percent, while Sonoma County is at 13 or 14 percent.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cigarette smoking causes more than 440,000 deaths in the United States each year – about 20 percent of all deaths in the nation. That’s more than all of the deaths caused by guns, AIDS, car crashes, illegal drugs and alcohol use combined, the CDC reports.