BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - The battle to reduce tobacco use has all but stalled in most cities in Kern County, according to the American Lung Association.
Those were the findings of the State of Tobacco Control 2014 report released Wednesday.
Fifty years after the first Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health was issued on January 11, 1964, the Lung Association’s new report finds that our nation as a whole must renew its commitment to eliminate tobacco-caused death and disease.
The city of Tehachapi received the top grade in Kern County with an overall tobacco control grade of C. Bakersfield, the most populous city in the region, received an overall F grade for its tobacco control policies. Grades were mixed throughout, highlighting the need for local officials to better protect Kern County residents from tobacco-related death and disease.
"These grades really do represent real health consequences, these are policies that are important to help protect the health of residents in Bakersfield," said American Lung Association's Vanessa Marvin.
“Despite making great strides in reducing smoking rates in America, there is still much work to be done here in Kern County,” Josh Royal, Chair, American Lung Association in California – Bakersfield Leadership Board. “Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and illness in the U.S. We must renew our commitment to stopping tobacco from robbing another generation of their health,” Royal said.
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 enormous toll tobacco use takes on lives and the economy. The 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 conjunction with the national report, the American Lung Association in California released its State of Tobacco Control 2014 – California Local Grades, which issues grades for all 482 cities and 58 counties in California on local tobacco control policies. To view the complete California report, including grades for cities in Kern County, visit www.lung.org/california
Once a national leader in tobacco control policies, California is now falling behind in protecting its citizens from tobacco. While the state earned an A grade for smokefree air policies, it received a D for its low cigarette tax, an F for failing to sufficiently fund tobacco prevention and control programs, and another F for poor coverage of smoking cessation and treatment services.
Many municipalities throughout California have stepped up to protect their communities from the harmful effects of tobacco, despite the lack of action at the state level. In 2013, a total of forty cities and counties adopted new policies. However, while many communities took action to improve their grades, a total of 330 cities and counties throughout the state – more than 60% of all municipalities – received an F for their overall tobacco grade.
“The policies reflected in this report demonstrate the leadership at the local level to ensure that all Californians breathe clean and healthy air,” said Marsha Ramos, Chair, American Lung Association in California Governing Board. “No matter how big or small the city or county, local tobacco control policies saves lives. Tobacco use continues to take a toll on the lives of both adults and kids, so these grades represent real health consequences.”
In the 50 years since the first Surgeon General report, 8 million lives were saved because of tobacco control efforts. In 1964, the national smoking rate was at 42 percent, more than double today’s rate of 18 percent.
Despite these improvements and progress shown at the local level, 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 – a tremendous burden that California cannot afford.
Meanwhile, the tobacco industry continued its ruthless pursuit of addicting new users and keeping current users from quitting in 2013. This included efforts at the federal and state levels to exempt their products from meaningful public health protections.
The three largest cigarette manufacturers—Altria, Reynolds American, and Lorillard—continued their aggressive expansion into tobacco products other than cigarettes in 2013. As cigarette use continues to gradually decline, these companies continue to maintain their stranglehold on America’s youth and reap profits from smokeless tobacco, cigars and now e-cigarettes.
“I urge everyone to join the American Lung Association in California and renew their commitment to preventing another 50 years of tobacco caused death and disease,” said Ramos.