Orange County is smokey.
Orange County is smokey.
John Gilhooley

American Lung Association to Orange County: F You!

Orange County and 31 of its cities receive F grades in the newly released American Lung Association State of Tobacco Control 2017-California Local Grades report.

Failing grades indicate the region and many of its cities, including two of the largest, Anaheim and Irvine, are struggling with comprehensive tobacco control policies to prevent and reduce tobacco use and limit exposure to secondhand smoke, according to the nonprofit.

Only Santa Ana, Laguna Hills and Laguna Woods avoided failing grades by getting C grades in the report that was made public Wednesday. While La Palma got an F, it did make the association's list of "Cities and Counties on the Rise" by passing a smoke free parks ordinance that includes e-cigarette regulations.

View the full report at stateoftobaccocontrol.org/california2017. (Click here for the individual city search feature.)

“Local elected leaders who continue to ignore the incredible health risks associated with tobacco use are doing a disservice to their community,” says Olivia Diaz-Lapham, president and CEO of the American Lung Association in California, in a statement accompanying the findings. “Tobacco-related illnesses remain the single most preventable cause of disease and death in California and we urge communities to institute policies to reduce smoking rates and exposure to secondhand smoke, and to protect our children from a lifetime of addiction.”

One place where Orange County and its cities can improve in the future is by implementing comprehensive policies to prevent exposure to secondhand smoke in multi-unit housing complexes, where children, the elderly and those with lung illnesses are most vulnerable, according to the association, which says it is pushing for such policies with local governments and the state Legislature.

Meanwhile, the Laguna Beach City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to pursue what could become the first ban on smoking citywide in an Orange County municipality. The police chief was directed to come up with a plan.

Statewide, there has been improvement: More than 20 California cities received overall A grades for their tobacco control policies—a first in the report's history. Meanwhile, there were 12 fewer F grades doled out this year.

Nationally, California was one of the most improved states in 2016, according to the association, which credited tobacco control policies passed by the Legislature and signed by Governor Brown in 2016, including raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21, regulating e-cigarettes the same as other tobacco products and strengthening workplace smokefree laws.

Areas where state grades rose compared to the previous year were Smokefree Air Policies (an A from a B) and Level of Tobacco Taxes (B from an F). Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs went from an F to an "incomplete" because new revenue from increased tobacco taxes under Proposition 56 has not yet been collected. Under the initiative that passed in November, the tax on a pack of cigarettes rises from $2 to $2.87 beginning in April.

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