Auburn, Placer tobacco efforts fail American Lung Association test

Organization wants improvement in smoke-free housing, outdoor areas
By: By Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - The American Lung Association has given Auburn and Placer County failing grades in its annual report card on controlling tobacco use.

Both the city and the county scored ‘F’s’ in all categories, according to marks released Wednesday by the association’s California office. The annual “State of Tobacco Control” report assigns grades to all California cities and counties on what it considers key tobacco-control issues.

The two-pronged message of the report card is for communities to help keep tobacco out of the hands of children and help promote clean air.

“Cities and counties in California have always led the way with strong tobacco control policies and that continues to this day,” said Stephanie Yoder, chair of the Lung Association’s Sacramento board. “Safeguarding our communities from the negative consequences of tobacco is essential. “

The grades represent tangible lives and real health concerns, Yoder said.

Auburn Mayor Kevin Hanley said that the city will respectfully have a look at the report card grades and should be open to any ideas the Lung Association has. But Hanley added that he feels the city shouldn’t be relying just on what the association has to say. Auburn has consistently scored “F” grades in the past.

“I don’t think we should necessarily take one organization’s grading as the objective score of the city of Auburn,” Hanley said. “They have a certain point of view. They want a lot more state action and more spending for ways they believe would lessen tobacco use.”

Hanley added that he’s not sure the American Lung Association’s views are shared by the people of Placer County, particularly when it comes to enforcement of regulations banning smoking on sidewalks and in parks.

“It would mean employing our very scarce law-enforcement resources for enforcement instead of chasing down the bad guys,” Hanley said.

Hanley said the state – and local communities – would be better served by financial incentives from health insurers that would reward those who do not smoke.

“I don’t like the fact I have to subsidize the healthcare of smokers,” he said.

The Lung Association report card was cited during discussions at Monday’s Auburn City Council meeting over a possible ban on smoking at the Auburn Park Preserve, across from Placer High School.

 At the park at Placer High’s lunch period on Wednesday, 15-year-old Jessica Lund said students occasionally come to the wooded area for a cigarette. Lund said a limited ban on smoking at the park, with an area set aside for smokers that included a bench to sit on, would be a better answer than forbidding tobacco use.

“Banning it completely would be ridiculous,” Lund said.

Lund added that the idea of establishing rules banning smoking on city sidewalks also would go too far.

As well as Auburn, the Lung Association’s grades give “F” marks to Colfax, Lincoln, Loomis, Rocklin, Roseville and the unincorporated areas. The grades are broken down into three main categories – control policies for smoke-free outdoor environments, smoke-free housing and reducing sales of tobacco products.

The association’s report says that every year in California, 34,400 children start smoking. At the same time, smoking causes an estimated 37,000 deaths and costs the state economy more than $18 billion in healthcare costs, the Lung Association states.

Applegate’s Emily Holthaus was enjoying the sunshine Wednesday at Auburn’s Central Square and had no objections to something like a smoke-free zone.

“It would be a place for families,” Holthaus said. “So far, I haven’t run into a problem (with smokers) in Placer County. In Sacramento, I have, but I haven’t come across that in Auburn.”

For Jerry Kopp, owner of Auburn’s Uptown Signs, a sidewalk smoking ban wouldn’t stop him from stepping out of his store for a cigarette.

“What are they going to do, arrest me?” Kopp asked, with a smile.


How Auburn scores:

n Smoke-free outdoor air (Sidewalk smoking, recreation area, public event bans) F

n Smoke-free housing (Non-smoking units, non-smoking common areas) F

n Reducing sales of tobacco products (Tobacco retailer licensing, sales near schools and parks, sales in pharmacies) F

Source: American Lung Association