Petaluma's secondhand smoke rules lauded

Petaluma's ban on smoking in apartments and other multi-unit housing won recognition in the American Lung Association's latest statewide report on efforts to restrict secondhand smoke.

Bumped up to a B grade from last year's D for overall tobacco control, Petaluma was the lone North Bay community on the association's list of 40 cities and counties "on the rise" for passing new smoking regulations.

Petaluma joined Rohnert Park, Sebastopol and Sonoma County on the B list; the county's other six cities were given Ds or Fs. All but Petaluma retained the same grade given last year.

"I'm happy we did that," Mayor David Glass said, referring to the Petaluma council's approval last January of a smoking ban that covered all private housing with at least one shared wall -#8212; apartments, duplexes and condos.

"We were at the bottom of the deck," he said, referring to Petaluma's grade in 2013.

The Lung Association graded all 58 California counties and 482 cities in three key areas: smoke-free outdoor air, smoke-free multi-unit housing and reducing tobacco sales.

Santa Rosa, Windsor and Healdsburg got Ds; Cloverdale, Cotati and Sonoma received Fs.

Mendocino County and the cities of Ukiah and Fort Bragg received Cs, Willits a D and Point Arena an F.

Lake County and the cities of Clearlake and Lakeport received Fs, with no points for smoke-free housing anywhere.

Just 18 of the state's 540 cities and counties received an A grade for overall tobacco control, and 330 -#8212; 61 percent of all communities -#8212; got an F.

Protecting people who live in multi-unit structures from second-hand smoke is now a critical part of the 50-year-old campaign triggered by the U.S. Surgeon General's 1964 report that linked smoking to lung cancer, said Pam Granger, North Coast advocacy manager for the American Lung Association in California.

Most Californians enjoy smoke-free air at work and school, "but they don't have protection in the place where they should be the safest -#8212; at home," she said.

California is the only state with local ordinances that limit smoking in multi-unit housing, Granger said. The report noted that 114 communities restrict smoking in indoor and/or outdoor common areas of multi-unit housing and 34 communities require non-smoking units.

Santa Rosa, Windsor and Cloverdale each received zero points and an F on smoke-free housing.

Santa Rosa was a leader in the campaign against second-hand smoke when it passed a comprehensive ban on outdoor smoking in 2006, Granger said.

The prohibition applies to more than 1,000 acres of city-owned land, including 57 parks, the city's golf course and most of the downtown area.

The council's official list of goals for 2013-15 includes possible expansion of the smoking ordinance and Granger said she intends to pursue the matter.

Citizens are expressing an interest in indoor smoking restrictions and multi-unit landlords say it is easier to ban smoking if it is based on a city rule, she said.

"More needs to be done," declared the Surgeon General's 2014 report on "The Health Consequences of Smoking -#8212; 50 Years of Progress."

The nationwide smoking rate has been cut by more than half -#8212; from 43 percent in 1965 to 18 percent in 2012 -#8212; but tobacco smoke still accounts for almost 500,000 premature deaths a year, the report said.

In California, tobacco use causes about 36,000 deaths a year and more than 30,000 children start smoking each year, the Lung Association said.

The report is available online at www.lung.org/associations/states/california.

You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 521-5457 or guy.kovner@pressdemocrat.com.