Although California earned top marks for tobacco control, the American Lung Association once again gave Lodi a failing grade.
When the health organization released its annual State of Tobacco Control report for California on Wednesday, Lodi received an F for its tobacco control policies for the second year in a row while California earned an A for smoke-free air policies and Bs in several other categories.
According to Vanessa Marvin, vice president of state advocacy for the American Lung Association’s Western Division, cities and counties are graded in three main categories: Smoke-free outdoor air, smoke-free housing and reducing the sales of tobacco products.
“Municipalities receive points in each category based on the strength of their local laws,” Marvin said in a Wednesday email. “The report provides bonus points to communities that have adopted cutting-edge policies to combat emerging issues.”
In addition to an A for smoke-free air policies, California also received Bs for state-funded tobacco prevention programs, the level of state tobacco taxes, coverage and access to tobacco-quitting services and raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21.
Lodi, however, earned zero points in every subcategory for outdoor air except for recreation areas, where it earned two out of four possible points. Lodi also earned zero points for smoke-free housing and reducing sales of tobacco products, and did not earn any bonus points.
While she acknowledged Lodi’s efforts to reduce smoking in recreation areas, Marvin said the city still has more work to do if it hopes to increase its grade in the future.
“It is great to see that elected officials in Lodi have taken some steps to protect residents from second-hand smoke, but the American Lung Association encourages them to go further and protect all residents from dangerous smoke where they live, work and play,” Marvin said.
Jeff Hood, director of the Lodi Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department, said the Parks and Recreation Commission had suggested banning smoking in the city’s parks in 2015, but the Lodi City Council declined as they worried it would restrict people’s personal freedoms.
“The feedback was that they didn’t support an outright ban of smoking in parks at that time,” Hood said.
No other smoking bans have been proposed since 2015, Hood said, although he believes the Lodi City Council would be willing to listen if the public came to them with such concerns in the future.
“It just hasn’t really been on the council’s radar in years,” Hood said. “I’m not aware of any communication from the public about it.”
Although Lodi has not passed any ordinances to ban smoking lately, Hood said that in 1990, Lodi became the first city in the nation to ban smoking in bars and restaurants. Voters upheld the ban when tobacco lobbyists challenged it, and California followed suit in 1995, he said.
Lodi has also taken steps to enforce the statewide ban on smoking within 25 feet of any recreational facility designed for use by children, Hood said.
“We’ve expanded upon that by posting ‘No Smoking’ signs in those parks, such as Emerson Park,” Hood said.
While San Joaquin County also received a failing grade in all categories, County Public Health Services has already taken steps to improve tobacco control that supervising public health educator Daniel Kim hopes will improve the county’s score in the future.
Public Health’s Smoking and Tobacco Outreach/Prevention Program (STOPP) worked with the San Joaquin Regional Transit District to pass an ordinance banning smoking at all bus stops and transit areas, Kim said, and has other programs that address categories graded by the American Lung Association.
In addition to working on an ordinance to require tobacco retailer licenses in Stockton and another to ban smoking at University of the Pacific, Kim said STOPP also hopes to work with residents and leaders in Tracy to pass an ordinance that would allow them to choose if they want flavored tobacco products sold in their community.
STOPP also plans to increase access to services designed to help current smokers quit, Kim said.
“In reducing the access and availability of tobacco products, we do understand the need to help those that are still using tobacco,” Kim said. “We are working with community-based organizations and health care providers to provide more in-person cessation classes for the communities that need them the most.”