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Report finds Stanislaus County still lacking in tobacco control
American Lung Association not happy with cities in county
E-cigarettes have become popular among younger people but some cities have not regulated their use in public. - photo by Contributed to the Courier

As far as the American Lung Association is concerned, cities in Stanislaus County are not implementing enough controls over tobacco use.

The American Lung Association's State of Tobacco Control 2016 - California Local Grades report, released last week, gave Stanislaus County cities "D" and "F" grades for implementing and continuing key tobacco control policies.

The report gave Hughson, Turlock and Riverbank "D" grades, and Ceres, Modesto, Waterford, Patterson, Newman, Oakdale and unincorporated areas of the county all had "F" grades.

Hughson, Modesto and Turlock were the first cities in Stanislaus County to regulate the use of electronic cigarettes. Turlock's move last year to include electronic cigarettes in the smoking ban in public parks earned the city some points with the ALA, as did the smoking restrictions at common areas of housing units.

Ceres has not regulating electronic cigarettes.

All the cities in Stanislaus County, except Riverbank, got F grades for failing to enact measures that reduce tobacco sales in the region. Riverbank got an A grade for restricting where cigarettes may be sold.

Merced County earned some recognition from the ALA for protecting residents from secondhand smoke exposure when the local housing authority passed a policy restricting smoking in its multi-unit housing properties.

At the state level, the ALA, found that the fight against tobacco use is at a standstill. The ALA was hoping the state Legislature would take greater action to enact tobacco control policies, but didn't see much improvement over the last year.

While California earned a "B" for its smoke free air policies, the state received an "F" grade for what the ALA called low tobacco taxes, an "F" for failing to sufficiently fund tobacco prevention and control programs and an "F" for poor coverage of smoking cessation and treatment services.

"We applaud local leaders for stepping up to better protect residents from the harmful effects of smoking," said Olivia J. Diaz-Lapham, president and CEO, American Lung Association in California. "But we must take stronger action to save lives today and prevent and reduce tobacco use. This year we have an unprecedented opportunity to increase the tobacco tax - the single most effective way we can improve health and prevent children from becoming the next generation hooked on tobacco."

Many conservatives oppose so-called sin taxes being used as control behavior.

The ALA reported that more than 16,000 kids start smoking each year in the state.

"Nearly a quarter of high school students are using tobacco products, and use of e-cigarettes and little cigars is at an all-time high," said David Tom Cooke, MD, FCCP, FACS, lung surgeon and member of the American Lung Association in California Governing Board. "It's not a secret how we can reduce tobacco use. If California is going to make progress in reducing the number one cause of preventable death in the state, it's clear that raising the tobacco tax and enacting strong tobacco control policies are necessary."

California data shows that electronic cigarette use among young adults, ages 18 to 29, increased from 2.3 percent in 2012 to 7.6 percent in 2013. Young adults in California are three times more likely to use electronic cigarettes than those 30 and older. Likewise, electronic cigarette use among U.S. teens has surged. In 2014, teen use of electronic cigarettes nationally surpassed the use of traditional cigarettes, with more than twice as many eighth- and tenth-graders reporting using electronic cigarettes more than traditional cigarettes. Among twelfth-graders, 17 percent reported currently using electronic cigarettes vervsus 14 percent using traditional cigarettes.

The California Department of Public Health's report released in 2015, "State Health Officer's Repot on E-Cigarettes: A Community Health Threat," found that electronic cigarettes contain a level of toxicity that could prove harmful to users. The report points to preliminary studies that have shown that using nicotine containing electronic cigarette for just five minutes causes similar lung irritation, inflammation, and effect on blood vessels as smoking a traditional cigarette.

A health advisory issued by the CDPH in January 2015 warned electronic cigarette users that analyses of e-liquids by the Food and Drug Administration and other laboratories found variability in the content of e-liquids and inaccurate product labeling related to nicotine content and chemicals.