Riverside County cities scored largely average grades in the American Lung Association’s annual assessment of tobacco-control policies released Wednesday, with three cities collecting B grades and four receiving Fs.
Roughly a dozen communities received C grades, but no cities in the county earned the top grade of A.
The Riverside County cities receiving B grades were Hemet, Murrieta and Temecula. Receiving Fs were Blythe, Indian Wells, Indio and La Quinta. Riverside and Palm Springs both received C grades.
The municipal grades are issued based on a review of four areas — smokefree outdoor air, smokefree housing, reducing sales of tobacco products and addressing emerging issues such as flavored tobacco products.
According to the report, California overall leads the nation in efforts to reduce and prevent tobacco use, scoring an A grade for its smokefree air policies, and B grades for funding of tobacco-prevention programs, state tobacco taxes, access to services to help people stop using tobacco and having a minimum age of 21 for the purchase of tobacco.
“We are proud that California continues to make progress in addressing the lung health of its people,” according to a statement from Lindsey Freitas, senior director of advocacy for the American Lung Association in California. “By passing a strong tobacco tax in 2016, continuing to support smoking-cessation programs and other key quit tools and standing up to the billions spent in lobbying by Big Tobacco, the state remains a leading nationwide advocate for health lungs and clean air.”
But the report cites emerging threats, particularly the popularity of e-cigarettes and vaping, as particularly disturbing. Lung Association officials said there was a 78 percent increase in high school e-cigarette use between 2017 and 2018 nationally.
“The tobacco industry continues to find creative ways to hook new generations of smokers by marketing and selling new products,” according to the report. “Local tobacco-control efforts have remained diligent in taking common sense approaches and pushing necessary policies to address new challenges.”
According to the report, 50 percent of the state’s population lives in communities receiving a D or F grade, while only 20 percent live in areas with an A or B.
According to the Lung Association, the number of cities and counties that received an overall A grade has increased from 18 in 2013 to 39 for 2018.