COAST CITIES — If they were students, Solana Beach would be receiving praise and Del Mar would likely be grounded following the release of the annual American Lung Association in California State of Tobacco Control report card, which graded 373 of the state’s cities and counties on their smoking ordinances.
Each jurisdiction received points in three categories — smoke-free outdoor air, smoke-free housing and reducing the sales of tobacco products.
Solana Beach went from an F in 2008 to a B in 2009, primarily because of new laws that went into effect in July banning smoking at all outdoor dining areas, farmers markets, playgrounds, recreational areas and sports arenas, as well as along the coastal rail trail. The amended ordinance also prohibits the sale of tobacco in vending machines and requires tobacco retailers to be licensed by the city.
Del Mar also amended its smoking ordinance to include many of the same provisions, however, council members declined to implement tobacco retailer regulations that could reduce sales to minors because of the administrative efforts. They also said they didn’t believe tobacco sales to minors was an ongoing problem in the city, despite a report from Judi Strang of the San Dieguito Alliance for Drug Free Youth, who said decoy operations in Del Mar have resulted in sales to minors.
Del Mar’s new laws helped the city improve from an F in 2008 to a D in 2009. A licensing provision likely would have earned the city a B since that is mainly where Del Mar and Solana Beach differ in points earned. In fact, Del Mar actually scored higher than its northern neighbor in the smoke-free outdoor air category.
City Councilwoman Crystal Crawford, who was mayor when the new ordinances were adopted, said she was “disappointed the city didn’t fare better.” She said with only one or two stores in Del Mar where tobacco products could be purchased, it didn’t make fiscal sense to adopt a licensing regulation. “We try to be proactive, but we have to be practical,” she said. “We have to balance the cost of implementing an ordinance with the number of businesses affected.”
Crawford said if sales to minors is a problem in Del Mar, “we can always revisit the ordinance.” She said oftentimes reports include data collected from stores outside the boundaries of the city, such as those in the shopping center at Mango Drive and Del Mar Heights Road.
San Diego County received a B in reducing the sales of tobacco products, a D for smoke-free outdoor air and an F for smoke-free housing, resulting in a D for overall tobacco control. The highest grade in San Diego was a B, earned by only Solana Beach and El Cajon. Encinitas received a D, and Carlsbad and Oceanside were both given Fs.
El Cajon is the only city in the county with an ordinance that addresses smoke-free housing, and only four cities require tobacco retailers to be licensed.
“We’re always excited about doing better in this area,” Solana Beach City Councilman Joe Kellejian said. “Solana Beach — and San Diego in general — are very healthy areas, and we want to keep it that way. We pay attention to health issues.”
For nearly two decades, Kellejian has taken a leadership role in educating other jurisdictions about “the Solana Beach experience” and the positive results that come from smoking restrictions. In 2003, Solana Beach became the first city in the continental United States to ban smoking on its beaches.
Solana Beach was given 8 points on a 12-point scale, and Del Mar received 4. To earn an A a city must have at least 11 points.
“We’ll get it,” Kellejian said. “This is a healthy community.”
There are nearly 4 million smokers in California. Every year, more die from tobacco use than from alcohol, HIV/AIDS, car crashes, illegal drugs, murders and suicides combined. It is the most preventable cause of death in the state, claiming nearly 36,600 lives each year. The Lung Association estimates more than 36,000 youth will become smokers in 2010. Tobacco use costs the state more than $18 billion annually.