By JM Brown, Santa Cruz Sentinel
SANTA CRUZ >> During the past five years, the city of Santa Cruz has shown the greatest improvement within Santa Cruz County in protecting the public from harmful effects of tobacco.
The American Lung Association gave Santa Cruz an overall grade of “B” on its State of Tobacco Control 2015 report card released Wednesday. The grade represented a big boost from the “D” received in 2010.
Santa Cruz partly improved its grade by passing a tobacco licensing fee that funds police stings on sales to minors. The city also tightened restrictions on smoking downtown and in parks, and added vapor-emitting e-cigarettes to regulations targeting second hand smoke.
“Santa Cruz has been the leader of the pack because of a City Council leadership seeing it has a role and a responsibility to denormalize tobacco use,” said Serena Chen, advocacy director for the American Lung Association in California.
Mayor Don Lane, who took the Lung Association to task in 2010 for a scoring mishap, was pleased to see the improved ranking and acknowledged there is more work ahead.
“I’m open to looking at other things but taking it one step at a time,” Lane said. “We want to move in sync with the community, which in general has been on a steady march in this direction to limit smoke, first- and second hand.”
Chen said the city could further improve its score by creating greater restrictions on smoking outside in dining establishments, on sidewalks and in housing.
Watsonville also fared well on the annual survey, maintaining the “B” grade it received in 2010. The city scores high for restricting tobacco use at public events, having tobacco licensing and banning e-cigarettes in parks, restaurants and other public places.
Capitola and the unincorporated county of Santa Cruz have improved on their scores, receiving grades of “C” this year compared to “D” in 2010. Scotts Valley is the only city in the county not to improve upon the “D” received in 2010.
Scotts Valley and Capitola do not have tobacco retail licensing ordinances; however, Capitola received the highest marks for its efforts to limit smoking outside. Overall, the category in which local jurisdictions scored the lowest is in housing, including the lack of nonsmoking units.
California’s 482 cities and 58 counties are scored by the Lung Association on three categories: Smoke-free outdoor air regulations, smoke-free housing protections and reducing tobacco sales. This year, the association also offered bonus points for regulations on e-cigarettes or restrictions on the location of tobacco retailers.
Overall, Monterey County jurisdictions fared poorly compared to those in Santa Cruz County.
Carmel, Monterey and the unincorporated county received a “C” grade while nine cities received an “F” and one received a “D.”
Chen said Santa Cruz County stands out compared to its immediate neighbors to the south largely due to restrictions on smoking outdoors, of which there is little in Monterey County except for some recreational areas and some sidewalks.
“Most people who live in Santa Cruz spend time outside,” she said. “Since it’s important that people enjoy the outdoors, leaders are backing them up on that.”
The American Lung Association has issued its State of Tobacco Control 2015 report card for California cities and counties. Here’s how Santa Cruz County and its four cities performed:
Capitola Santa Cruz Scotts Valley Watsonville Unincorporated county
Overall grade C B D B C
Smokefree outdoor air A B C B D
Smokefree housing D D D D D
Reducing tobacco sales F A F A A
To view grades for all California cities and counties, visit goo.gl/pzK3Ro.
Source: American Lung Association