cigarette

While California made big progress in fighting tobacco use throughout the state in 2016, Monterey County continues bring home low and failing grades on the annual American Lung Association report card, the association announced Wednesday.

Carmel, Monterey, Salinas and unincorporated Monterey County received the same C grade as last year, for efforts like banning smoking in parks and having tobacco retailer licensing in place. 

But the rest of the county's cities failed to meet even minimum standards that the American Lung Association says are needed to prevent and reduce tobacco use, and protect residents from secondhand smoke.

“Local elected leaders who continue to ignore the incredible health risks associated with tobacco use are doing a disservice to their community,” said Olivia Diaz-Lapham, President and CEO of the American Lung Association in California, in a statement.

The lung association scores municipalities on a scale of zero to 10 in three areas, working toward smoke-free air, requiring smoke-free housing and reducing the sales of tobacco and related products.

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Only Salinas and the county government received points for banning smoking in housing unit common areas, yet not one municipality received any points for requiring nonsmoking apartments and condominiums.

Some cities in the county scored zeros across the board for having no policies in place, including Del Rey Oaks, Greenfield, King City, Marina, Seaside and Soledad. 

By contrast, the association reported that California was one of the most improved states in the country last year. For the first time in the report's history, more than 20 cities in the state received an overall A grade. And the report handed out 12 fewer F grades than in the 2016 report.

The improved grades are a result of tobacco control policies passed by the Legislature and signed by Governor Brown in 2016 including raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21, regulating e-cigarettes the same as other tobacco products and strengthening workplace smoke-free laws, according to the lung association.

Additionally, voters passed Proposition 56 in November, which raises the tax on a pack of cigarettes by $2 to $2.87 per pack beginning in April 2017.

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