American Lung Association in California released its State of Tobacco Control 2012, California Local Grades report card to track how well cities and counties are doing to protect people from the burden of tobacco.
The cities and counties grades are based on a review of their codes/laws in three key areas: smoke-free outdoor air, smoke-free multiunit housing and reducing tobacco sales. This yearly report reminds us all that there is still is much work to be done and improvements to be made for a healthier city, county, state and nation.
Solana Beach was the first city in San Diego County to prohibit smoking on its beaches and in its parks. Solana Beach understood this action would create a healthier environment with reduced pollution from cigarette butts and less secondhand smoke for cleaner air. We also eliminated smoking from outdoor dining and most public venues.
The decisions that I made as a city council person regarding reducing tobacco smoking exposure are important to me and straightforward. I have pledged as a city council member to uphold the health, safety and welfare of my city and its citizens. And I have received significant support from them and visitors who are excited to enjoy our smoke-free beaches and parks, and the eating and shopping experience in our town unencumbered by inhalation of smoke.
Strong anti-smoking policies assist in maintaining healthy communities, and in reducing and preventing tobacco use. Helping smokers quit saves lives, but it also saves everyone money. These savings benefit former smokers, insurance companies, employers, state budgets and taxpayers. Studies have shown that helping smokers quit actually saves thousands of dollars in health care expenditures per smoker. According to the American Lung Association, these savings come from lower health care costs, increased workplace productivity and averted premature deaths.
And we know a smoker’s health improves immediately once they’ve quit. Within the first day of quitting smoking the heart rate and the amount of carbon monoxide in the bloodstream will return to normal levels. Within weeks, a former smoker’s lung function improves and the risk of heart attacks drops. He or she may experience fewer colds, respiratory infections, and in general just feel better.
Studies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that smokers’ lives are more than 13 years shorter than nonsmokers.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in the long term, a smoker who quits considerably reduces his or her risk of diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis), heart disease, lung cancer and many other cancers, creating untold medical costs.
Any way we can save precious citizens’ lives and taxpayers’ dollars is vitally important. Much attention and improvements are happening at the state and national level, which is great, but let’s work right now too with our local cities.
My hope is that in North County, our cities will make local tobacco control policies a priority. We can be the healthy trendsetter for our county, the state, and nation by implementing policies that create smokefree outdoor air (specifically in restaurant patio dining), smoke-free multiunit housing and reduce tobacco sales to minors through retail licensing.