Who do you think is at the top of the class?

The other day, a friend who recently turned 21 asked me if I knew of any bars that allowed smoking indoors. At first, I had to laugh, then told her that I have read multiple municipal codes of countless cities and counties in California for the State of Tobacco Control 2013: California Local Grades Report and I did not know of any cities that allow smoking inside restaurants and bars. I also told her I’ve been to many bars and have only seen people get kicked out for smoking inside. To my surprise, she was shocked at my response. She said she has seen many television shows that depict smoking in bars and just thought that could have been the norm and maybe she could find one that allowed smoking indoors in Oakland. To shock her even further, I told her Oakland actually has a very good Tobacco Control Grade of a B. This is an example of a commonly held belief that cities with greater socio-economic hardships and higher diversity have more lenient tobacco control policies, however, this seems to be a misconception.

The misconception stems from the fact that the tobacco industry targets these types of communities. But what appears to happen in response in some communities is that the city tries harder to create stronger policies to hamper the tobacco industry’s efforts. Given this information, it is not surprising to find that the top 17 cities and counties to receive an Overall Tobacco Control grade of an A vary in income and racial diversity. Albany, Calabasas, Compton, Richmond, and Santa Monica are all found together in the top 17 regardless of their many differences. The similarities, however, are that their city councilmembers are doing great jobs protecting their residents from the harmful effects of tobacco. The State of Tobacco Control Report also points out that there is no correlation between population and strong tobacco control policies; the cities in the top 17 range from populations as low as 18,488 (Albany) to 192,654 (Glendale). All of this information can be found in the new section in the State of Tobacco Control 2013: California Local Grades report, called “Top of the Class.” This section details the race, median income, and population of these top cities.

As of now, 17 jurisdictions received an Overall Tobacco Control grade of an A and many other jurisdictions are improving their grades; however, 339 jurisdictions (64%) received an Overall grade of an F. If race, income and population are not a factor in creating strong anti-tobacco related policies, more can be done at the local level to raise their Overall Tobacco Control Grades to improve the health of Californians.

–Stacy Song


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