Santa Rosa, Cotati and Sonoma took significant steps in 2015 to combat tobacco use among their residents, earning high marks in individual categories in the American Lung Association’s latest survey of communities statewide.
Santa Rosa and Cotati scored perfect A’s in the category of smoke-free housing, a year after both cities earned F’s on the same scale.
Likewise, Sonoma went from a failing grade to scoring the highest mark in the category of reducing tobacco sales.
“Sonoma County is making great strides in really improving the health of the community as it relates to secondhand smoke, and tobacco use overall,” said Corie Goldman, an advocacy director for the Lung Association.
The Lung Association has been issuing its State of Tobacco Control in California since 2008 as a way of pressuring localities into adopting more stringent tobacco regulations and to reduce smoking and smoking-related deaths.
Santa Rosa leaders last summer enacted a sweeping ban on smoking in attached homes, as well as in city recreational properties and parks and outdoor service areas such as lines for ATMs, food vendors, movie theaters and bus stops.
Santa Rosa Mayor John Sawyer said Wednesday he was “pleased” with the city’s performance on the survey, saying it reflects ongoing efforts to make smoking more restrictive.
“In time, we will be able to say we have eradicated smoking from our culture,” he said.
Sawyer, the former owner of a Santa Rosa newsstand that sold tobacco products, said he began recognizing long ago that smoking was falling out of favor. But as a former smoker himself, he expressed empathy for those who are trying to kick the habit.
“I know how strong addiction is,” he said. “I feel for people who have that monkey on their back.”
Cotati also enacted more stringent tobacco-use policies last year, pushing the city’s overall grade to a solid B, up from an F in previous years.
Sonoma earned a high individual score from the Lung Association after city leaders last year approved a measure that prohibits new businesses from selling cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco and other products, as well as implementing a ban on the sale of e-cigarettes, cheap cigars and most flavored tobacco in town.
However, the city backed away from enacting more stringent restrictions in housing units, earning it a grade of D in that category and bringing down the city’s overall score to a C.
Sonoma’s current regulations banning smoking in restaurants, workplaces and city-owned facilities were approved more than two decades ago at the ballot box. City officials were unsure whether those restrictions could be extended to apartment complexes, townhomes and outdoor spaces without a public vote.
The city received the highest number of bonus points of any Sonoma County community in the 2015 survey in the category of emerging issues, for its regulation of e-cigarettes.
The other three categories used to judge counties and municipalities were smoke-free outdoor air, smoke-free multi-unit housing and reduced tobacco sales.
Smoking is blamed for 40,000 deaths in California annually, and each year, an estimated 16,000 children pick up the habit, according to Goldman. The state’s overall grade of B remained unchanged from 2014. But as in years past, the state was faulted for its comparatively low cigarette tax and tobacco-prevention spending and its poor coverage of smoking cessation and treatment services.