RIVERBANK — Riverbank can be proud of its high marks for tobacco control in a report last week from the American Lung Association.
The city received an "A" grade for reducing tobacco product sales, and its overall score was respectable when compared with cities in California.
The other cities and counties in the region might feel tempted to hide their report cards. The study, titled "State of Tobacco Control 2013," gives them D's and F's for their tobacco control efforts.
The national study considers what state and local jurisdictions are doing to curb tobacco use and protect people against the potential cancer-causing effects of secondhand smoke. It assigns grades for smoke-free policies in parks and common areas of apartment complexes, and it recognizes efforts to reduce tobacco sales.
Riverbank has a tobacco retailer license fee and policies restricting where cigarettes can be sold.
At a recent Planning Commission hearing, planners scrutinized the conditions on tobacco sales for a BevMo store planned at the Crossroads center.
"We are happy BevMo is coming to the city, and they will be following the rules and regulations of the city's smoke-free policies," City Manager Jill Anderson said. "The city does take it very seriously."
Once a leader in tobacco control efforts, California has slipped in the estimation of the American Lung Association's research. The state's 87-cents-per-pack cigarette tax has been in place since 1999 and ranks 33rd in the country, well less than the U.S. average of $1.48 per pack.
Faulted on spending
California takes in $68 million in tobacco-related revenue but spends far less on anti-tobacco programs than what is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the association said.
State government was given an A for its outdoor smoke-free policies, but a D for its cigarette tax and a failing grade for smoking cessation and treatment services.
Officials said that cities in the Northern San Joaquin Valley were given low marks for not going beyond the state laws banning smoking in restaurants, theaters, taxicabs and other enclosed areas.
"There has been a lot of push for smoke-free outdoor environments," said Esmeralda Gonzalez, chronic disease and injury prevention manager for Stanislaus County. "I think we are starting to see language being included in local ordinances, but there is still work to be done."
D and F's for county
The county unincorporated area received an overall failing grade in the study. It was given an F for outdoor smoke-free policies for dining areas, public events, recreation areas, sidewalks and work sites; a D for smoke-free policies at housing complexes; and an F for any efforts to restrict tobacco sales near schools or in pharmacies.
Except for Riverbank, all of the cities in the county received failing grades overall. Modesto, Turlock, Ceres and Patterson received D's and F's in the individual categories. Getting straight F's were Oakdale, Newman and Waterford.
Riverbank was given a C overall, which wasn't bad given that only 17 cities or counties received an overall A for tobacco control. The report suggests that cities could have gotten better scores if they had followed the examples of Davis, Redding, Chico and Orland, which protect residents from cigarette smoke with restrictions in apartment complexes and recreation areas.
Fighting movie smoking
Gonzalez said that despite the poor marks, the county has an active tobacco education program. For example, it is trying to counteract the influence on young people who see actors puffing on the silver screen. The Brenden and State theaters in Modesto, and Galaxy in Riverbank, have agreed to show anti-tobacco public service spots before movies, she said.
Gonzalez added that 170 in-home day cares have adopted voluntary policies to be smoke-free at all times.
Modesto police Lt. Andy Schlenker noted that the city's smoking-related ordinances are fairly old. He said smoking near playgrounds in Modesto parks is not allowed, but there are limited policies for other outdoor areas.
"I think there would be an interest in more policies," Schlenker said. "There is an interest in controlling smoking at the transit center on Ninth Street, and I think it would serve a purpose in city parks."
Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2321.