Watsonville, Santa Cruz earn high marks for smoking policies


WATSONVILLE — Watsonville has earned a “B” grade for the second year in a row in its efforts to reduce and prevent tobacco use among young people, a ranking that puts the South County city ahead of other surrounding cities.

That’s according to “State of Tobacco Control 2019,” a report released Wednesday by the American Lung Association.

The annual report grades states and the federal government on policies proven to prevent and reduce tobacco use.

Among other things, the report ranks counties and cities based on categories such as smoke-free outdoor air, the availability of smoke-free housing and passing legislation that limits the sale of tobacco products to young people.

It finds that California is among the top states in the nation in several key areas, but stresses that the key to maintaining this ranking depends on continued efforts to prevent youth smoking, e-cigarette use and multi-unit housing protections.

Watsonville earned marks for prohibiting smoking at public events and in public recreation areas, said ALA spokesperson Corie Goldman.

“Not many cities have that high of a grade,” she said.

Goldman said that elected officials in the City of Santa Cruz have banned the sale of flavored tobacco products in that city, a move made to keep them out of the hands of children. That city also earned a B.

“One of the main reasons we put out this report is to educate community members that there are ways to reduce use of tobacco in their communities,” she said. 

The report also warned of a 78 percent increase of e-cigarette use among young people from 2017-18, which the ALA calls a “disturbing trend.”

“This equals one million additional kids beginning to use e-cigarettes, placing their developing bodies and lungs at risk from the chemicals in e-cigarettes as well as a lifetime of addiction to a deadly product,” the report reads.

American Lung Association Senior Director Lindsey Freitas pointed to the $2 per pack tax Californians approved for tobacco in the 2016 election, and to the state’s support of smoking cessation programs.

“We are proud that California continues to make progress in addressing the lung health of its people,” he said.

Also according to the report, half of California’s population still live in communities scoring a D or F. Just six percent live in cities or counties with an A grade. At the same time, the tobacco industry has undertaken a strategy to push back against local efforts. Last year, RJ Reynolds spent close to $12 million to unsuccessfully challenge a local ordinance in San Francisco that sought to ensure youth didn’t start smoking.

“Once again, California earned some of the best grades in the country, however the fact remains that more than 9,000 children begin smoking each year in the state while more than 40,000 residents die from smoking-related causes,” said Vanessa Marvin, American Lung Association vice president of Public Policy and Advocacy.

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To see the ALA report that focuses on California, which issues grades for all 482 cities and 58 counties in California on local tobacco control policies, visit bit.ly/2Gbnz5O.


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