When it comes to tamping out cigarette smoking, Stanislaus County and Turlock are getting failing grades from the American Lung Association.
The county and Turlock both got an overall F grade from the American Lung Association in the recently released “State of Tobacco Control 2014” report.
The State of Tobacco Control 2014 report tracks yearly progress on key tobacco control policies at the federal and state levels, assigning grades based on whether laws are adequately protecting citizens from the toll tobacco use takes on lives and the economy. This year’s report highlights the 50th anniversary of the historic 1964 Surgeon General’s report that linked smoking to lung cancer and other diseases for the first time.
In addition to an overall grade, the ALA grades cities on three categories — smoke free outdoor air, smoke free housing, and reducing sales of tobacco products. Within the three categories 44 points are possible. Turlock was given four points, earning the city an F for smoke free outdoor air and reducing sales of tobacco products. The city received a D for smoke free housing.
The only Stanislaus County city to score better than a F was Riverbank, which got a C because of its increased efforts to restrict tobacco retailer licensing within the city.
Turlock was hardly alone in missing the mark set by the ALA. The report gave failing grades to 61 percent of the cities and counties in California.
The ALA gave California Fs for tobacco prevention and cessation coverage, a D for cigarette taxes, and an A for smoke free air policies.
“Despite great strides in reducing smoking rates in America, tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and illness in the U.S.,” said Anita Lee, interim CEO of the American Lung Association in California. “We must renew our commitment to stopping tobacco from robbing another generation of Americans of their health and future. We cannot afford another 50 years of tobacco use."
In the 50 years since the first Surgeon General report, 8 million lives were saved because of tobacco control efforts, according to the ALA. In 1964, the national smoking rate was at 42 percent, more than double today’s rate of 18 percent.
Despite these improvements, tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of death in the nation. In California, tobacco use causes an estimated 36,000 deaths annually. More than 30,000 kids start smoking each year in the state, and tobacco use costs the state’s economy $18.1 billion in combined health care and lost productivity, the ALA reports.