Santa Monica continued to crack down on smokers last year, earning the city an A grade on the latest report card from the American Lung Association.
The association doles out the highest marks to cities and counties with the tightest anti-tobacco regulations, specifically those that prohibit smoking outdoors and in residential buildings and that restrict tobacco sales.
Santa Monica was one of five cities and counties that improved its score to an A after receiving a lower grade the prior year. In total, 17 cities aced the report card while 339, or nearly two-thirds, failed it.
Last year, Santa Monica received a B overall. It nearly flunked the lung association's review of its policies related to smoke-free housing, because it only banned smoking in the common areas of condominium and apartment complexes.
That changed in October when it banned smoking in new units and adopted regulations that require tenants to disclose to their neighbors whether they smoke.
The new rules were in response to residents who said their asthmatic children and elderly family members were suffering from exposure to second-hand smoke.
The lung association's top scoring cities "have demonstrated that there is public support and political will for strong tobacco control policies... and they have set a high bar for others to follow," it wrote in its report.
In Los Angeles County, Baldwin Park, Calabasas, Compton, Glendale, Huntington Park, Pasadena, and South Pasadena also received A grades.
The American Lung Association criticized the FDA for its lack of oversight over the proliferation of new products, such as electronic cigarettes.
"State and federal policymakers must battle a changing Big Tobacco and step up to fund programs and enact policies proven to reduce tobacco use," said Paul G. Billings, American Lung Association senior vice president for advocacy and education.
The lung association supported Proposition 29, and it would have received a portion of the $468 million slated for cancer research had the measure passed, according to the California Legislative Analyst’s office. The tobacco industry spent about $46 million to defeat the proposition, according to a report by the lung association.
Nationwide, although cigarette use has declined significantly in the last decade, pipe and loose tobacco consumption has increased 482 percent from 2000 to 2011 and cigar use jumped 233 percent in the same time period.
“In exploiting regulatory and tax loopholes, the industry has succeeded in increasing the use of cheaper and unregulated products such as small cigars, pipe tobacco, and novel products (including e-cigarettes and dissolvable strips)," Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Beverly Hills said in a statement. "We have come to expect such tactics from tobacco manufacturers."
California has not increased its cigarette tax since 1999, and at 87 cents compared to a nationwide average of $1.48 per pack, ranks 33rd in the country.
— Patch editor David Carini contributed to this report.