The Coast News Group
The American Lung Association gave dismal grades to several North County cities based on actions taken in tobacco prevention and control. Photo courtesy of WikiMedia

North County cities get dismal grades in tobacco prevention

Only Solana Beach received a “B” grade in a report from the American Lung Association

COAST CITIES — With many North County cities taking a stance against smoking, and now, some restricting the electronic forms of smoking, an American Lung Assocation report, however, is showing that California is falling behind when it comes to protecting its citizens from tobacco.

The “State of Tobacco Control 2014” report released on Wednesday showed that while the state earned “an ‘A’ grade for smokefree air polices, it received a ‘D’ for its low cigarette tax, an ‘F’ for failing to sufficiently fund tobacco prevention and control programs, and another ‘F’ for poor coverage of smoking cessation and treatment services.”

The report issued grades for all of the cities in the state and found that the use of tobacco remains a health crisis.

Solana Beach was the only North County city to receive an overall “B” grade for its tobacco control policies.

“We are proud of the work being done in San Diego and Imperial to protect residents from the harmful effects of tobacco,” said Joe Kellejian, in a press release.

Kellejian, a former Solana Beach mayor, is a Board Member with the San Diego Leadership Board of the American Lung Association in California.

“However, tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and illness in the U.S. We must renew our commitment to stopping tobacco from robbing another generation of their health,” Kellejian said.

The report comes on the heels of the Surgeon General’s report issued earlier this month, on the health consequences of smoking based on 50 years of monitoring the progress in tobacco control and prevention.

The report concluded that smoking remains the single largest cause of preventable disease and death in the United States:


• Since the first Surgeon General’s report on smoking and health was published 50 years ago, more than 20 million Americans have died because of smoking.

• If current rates continue, 5.6 million Americans younger than 18 years of age who are alive today are projected to die prematurely from smoking-related disease.

• Most of the 20 million smoking-related deaths since 1964 have been adults with a history of smoking; however, 2.5 million of those deaths have been among nonsmokers who died from diseases caused by exposure to secondhand smoke.

• More than 100,000 babies have died in the last 50 years from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, complications from prematurity, complications from low birth weight, and other pregnancy problems resulting from parental smoking.

• The tobacco epidemic was initiated and has been sustained by the tobacco industry, which deliberately misled the public about the risks of smoking cigarettes.


The cities of Carlsbad, Del Mar, Encinitas and Escondido all received a “D” grade, while Oceanside and San Marcos were graded with an “F.”

Vista earned a “C” grade, while the unincorporated areas in the county also received an “F.”

Gena Knutson is the program manager for the Vista Community Clinic’s tobacco control program.

Knutson has attended several city council meetings around North County in an attempt to further bring attention to smoking issues, and has been an advocate in the restrictions of e-cigarettes.

“As far as tobacco activities, there’s areas that we need to do more work in, such as multi-unit housing, outdoor dining, and the cities are addressing the current problem of e-cigarettes because they’re so attractive to youth,” she said.

The funding for the clinic’s tobacco programs and services comes from Prop 99, which consists of money collected from tax on cigarettes.

Though as smoking decreases, so too does the amount of money coming in from that initiative, Knutson explained.

But her clinic is starting to get funds from the federal level, too. That began around April of last year.

It’s something she’s excited about, because as the money declines at the state level, they’re starting to see more money come in from the federal level.

“We’ve never seen that before,” she said.

Despite the grades that many of the county’s cities received in the report, Knutson said that generally, city leaders are very aware of the health risks of smoking.

“There’s just new areas, which they’re not necessarily wanting to move forward in that direction quite yet.

“I don’t think the cities are quite ready for some of the proposals.”

Knutson said she thinks the reason for that comes down to economics.