The City of Los Angeles could improve its efforts to protect residents from the dangers of tobacco, according to a study released on Wednesday by the American Lung Association.
The 2013 State of Tobacco control study analyzed county and city codes throughout the United States for prevalence of smoking bans, outdoor smoke-free areas, smoke-free residential buildings and restrictions on tobacco sales.
Los Angeles received the C grade because it does not have a sufficient amount of smoke-free outdoor area and lacks smoke-free housing, according to the report. Out of four possible grading categories, California received an A grade for its smoke-free areas, but an F in its tobacco prevention funding, an F in its cessation campaign and a D in its cigarette tax.
Authors of the study touted accomplishments such as implementing a smoking ban across all the entire University of California system in 2012. However, successes were counterbalanced by factors such as the defeat of Proposition 29, which would have placed a $1 per pack tax on cigarettes.
The American Lung Association criticized the FDA for its lack of oversight over the proliferation of new products, such as electronic cigarettes.
"We are faced with a deep-pocketed, ever-evolving tobacco industry that's determined to maintain its market share at the expense of our kids and current smokers," said Paul G. Billings, American Lung Association senior vice president for advocacy and education. "State and federal policymakers must battle a changing Big Tobacco and step up to fund programs and enact policies proven to reduce tobacco use."
The ALA supported Proposition 29, and it would have received a portion of the $468 million slated for cancer research had the measure passed, according to the California Legislative Analyst’s office. The tobacco industry spent about $46 million to defeat the proposition, according to a report by the ALA.
Nationwide, although cigarette use has declined significantly in the last decade, pipe and loose tobacco consumption has increased 482 percent from 2000 to 2011 and cigar use jumped 233 percent in the same time period.
“In exploiting regulatory and tax loopholes, the industry has succeeded in increasing the use of cheaper and unregulated products such as small cigars, pipe tobacco, and novel products (including e-cigarettes and dissolvable strips). We have come to expect such tactics from tobacco manufacturers,” Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Beverly Hills. said.
California has not increased its cigarette tax since 1999, and at 87 cents compared to a nationwide average of $1.48 per pack , ranks 33rd in the country. Every year, 34,400 kids in California start smoking and tobacco is responsible for 37,000 deaths annually in the state.
“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 of the 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.”
In Los Angeles County, Baldwin Park, Calabasas, Compton, Glendale, Huntington Park, Pasadena, Santa Monica and South Pasadena received A grades.
“Cities and counties in California have always led the way with strong tobacco control policies, and we want to ensure that continues,” said Afif El-Hasan, MD, Board Member, American Lung Association in California Governing Board. “Safeguarding our communities from the negative consequences of tobacco is critical. These grades represent real health consequences.”