CITYWIDE — Nearly one out of every 11 adults here smoke cigarettes, according to a report released this week by Los Angeles County health officials.
The report, “Cigarette Smoking in Los Angeles County: Local Data to Inform Tobacco Policy,” found that 10.7 percent of Santa Monicans over the age of 18 smoke, ranking the city 30 out of 127 areas surveyed.
One out of every seven deaths in the county can be attributed to cigarette smoking, and tobacco-related diseases cost the county $4.3 billion per year, of which $2.3 billion is for direct healthcare expenditures, according to the report.
The report found that smoking prevalence varies considerably across cities and communities, with the lowest in San Marino (5.3 percent) and the highest in Quartz Hill (21.9 percent), a more than four-fold difference.
In addition, it found that male adults are more likely to smoke than females, African Americans are more likely to smoke than adults in other racial/ethnic groups, and that adults who have graduated from college and those with higher incomes are less likely to smoke than other adults.
Those working to prevent smoking in Santa Monica hope the report will help fuel new and continued efforts to prevent the negative effects of tobacco smoke in the city.
“This is a valuable tool to help motivate cities around Los Angeles County to take action,” said Paul Knepprath, vice president for Advocacy and Health Initiatives for the American Lung Association of California. “A city can take this and try to find ways to reduce exposure to tobacco smoke and help people quit smoking in L.A.”
The report looked at the county’s 88 cities, Los Angeles’ 15 City Council districts, and 40 unincorporated areas. The L.A. County Department of Public Health used three data sources — the 2007 Los Angeles County Health Survey (LACHS), the 2000 Census, and the 2007 Population Estimates and Projection System (PEPS).
In Santa Monica, many efforts have been made to reduce the smoking rate and the exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke. Smoking in Santa Monica is prohibited within 20 feet of the entrance, exit, or any open window of any building open to the public, the Third Street Promenade, any Farmers’ Market, any property of a public library and anywhere on the Santa Monica Pier, except in designated areas.
In addition, smoking is now prohibited in any “common areas” in multi-unit residences, defined as any area that is accessible by occupants of more than one unit.
Santa Monica City Councilmember Kevin McKeown believes that the report shows the progress the city has already made in eliminating smoking and subjection to tobacco smoke.
“The county health map will raise awareness that yes, the health impacts of smoking can be reduced,” he said. “Santa Monica’s relatively low smoking rate may demonstrate results of our pioneering work prohibiting smoking in parks, on beaches and near outdoor dining areas.”
Although Santa Monica has made many advances in this area, some citizens and activists believe that more needs to be done before the city can truly make progress.
Esther Schiller, executive director of S.A.F.E., (Smokefree Air For Everyone) and the Smokefree Apartment House Registry, is concerned about renters being exposed to secondhand smoke and would like to see more protections.
“If, over time, non-smoking and smoking permitted sections could be developed in apartment buildings, that would help to improve the long term health of Santa Monica residents of multi-unit housing,” she said
Schiller may have some support. The report suggests reducing exposure to secondhand smoke by restricting smoking in multi-unit housing, including provisions prohibiting smoking in apartment patios and balconies, indoor common areas such as hallways and laundry rooms, and outdoor common areas such as pool areas.
It also suggests implementing a cigarette litter mitigation fee, and restricting sales of tobacco products through conditional use permits near schools and parks to reduce youth access to tobacco products.
Although the Department of Public Health suggests that the estimates included in the report are not suitable for assessing the effectiveness of those policies and interventions, the city of Calabasas, ranked 4 out of 127 in the report, has one of the strictest no smoking laws in the nation, prohibiting smoking in all public areas of the city.