Central Coast cities have long way to go toward tobacco control, new report states

·2 min read

Jan. 27—A new report from the American Lung Association gave the majority of cities in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties failing scores when it comes to sale restrictions for flavored tobacco products, known to be predominantly targeted toward youth.

The 2022 State of Tobacco Control California Local Grades report scores individual counties on an A-F scale based on various tobacco policies, including smoke-free housing and public spaces, reduction of tobacco sales and this year's new category of flavored tobacco sale restrictions.

While California leaders have made efforts to implement a statewide flavored tobacco ban, such a policy can only go into place if approved by voters on the November 2022 ballot.

"Until this is put before the voters, passing policies that end the sale of flavored tobacco on the local level are critical," the 2022 report states. "In 2021, cities large and small across California are taking strong stances to protect their youth and all residents from the harms of tobacco."

In Santa Barbara County, the cities of Santa Maria, Guadalupe, Carpinteria and the county's unincorporated areas received A grades for flavored tobacco control, while the rest — Lompoc, Solvang, Buellton, Santa Barbara and Goleta — received Fs.

Guadalupe scored the highest overall for tobacco control, with extra points granted for smoke-free policies in housing and public areas, along with "emerging issues bonus points" for policies including minimum prices and pack sizes for tobacco and cigars, and restrictions on secondhand smoke and tobacco retailer locations.

The cities of Lompoc and Buellton scored the lowest overall for tobacco control, earning F grades due to a lack of policies around reducing tobacco sales and establishing smoke-free housing and public outdoor areas.

San Luis Obispo County cities received lower grades overall in 2021 than the year prior, mostly due to a lack of restrictions on flavored tobacco, according to the report. With the exception of Morro Bay, all cities — Arroyo Grande, Atascadero, Grover Beach, Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo, Pismo Beach, and the county's unincorporated areas — scored Fs in this category.

"Tobacco use is a primary cause of preventable death and disease in this country," said San Luis Obispo County Health Officer Dr. Penny Borenstein. "It is concerning that the multitude of flavored electronic cigarettes and vapes are attracting a whole new generation that may have never smoked before."

All but three cities received a D grade for overall tobacco control. Morro Bay scored the highest with a B, followed by San Luis Obispo and the county's unincorporated areas with Cs.

"This report underscores a local need to protect our youth from fun-sounding tobacco flavors — like 'bubble gum' and 'blue razz'," said San Luis Obispo Tobacco Control Coalition Chair Julia Alber. "Adding flavors masks the natural harshness, making it easier to smoke and easier to become addicted."