Willows gets F on smoking scorecard
The grades are in for Glenn County's 2013 tobacco report card from the American Lung Association with Willows and Glenn County getting failing grades and Orland going up a grade to a D.
That is because Willows and the unincorporated areas do not do enough to curb smoking and tobacco use, according to the lung association's findings.
Each local government received zero points on most chart listings for the three categories the organization analyzes.
One is enacting restrictions on outdoor smoking and tobacco use: the second is smoke-free housing complexes for multi-unit apartments and the third is reducing tobacco sales.
Willows only got two points in the smoke-free outdoor air category for some restrictions on smoking at outdoor events, but it got 0 points on everything else. The county did not get a single point in any category.
City Manager Steve Holsinger said he finds it interesting the lung association can give Willows a failing grade when Glenn County's air quality is much cleaner than the metropolitan areas the association is headquartered.
He said Willows has no smoking restrictions in city parks or sidewalks, but staff does everything it can to protect the public around public buildings.
However, Holsinger said — "We don't want to create legislative barriers. Citizens have the right to exercise their freedoms."
If somebody is clearly outside away from doorways and buildings and want to make use of tobacco products, he said he does not think it is right for the city to interfere.
As for tobacco sales, Holsinger said those are already regulated by the state and Willows follows those guidelines.
"We do a fair job of monitoring to make sure retailers are in compliance (regarding sales to minors)," he said. "I think that's enough. I don't think we need a special rule just for Willows or Glenn County. I would not be a proponent for that."
Holsinger added he does not recall having any group address the Willows City Council on smoke-free parks or other smoke-free areas.
"I am really happy Orland was able to raise its grade," Glenn County's Health and Human Services Director Scott Gruendl said. "But there is more work to be done in the county to reduce tobacco sales and have smoke-free housing."
He added he had not seen the lung association report and does not understand what criteria it used to make the grade.
However, Orland cannot celebrate too much because its overall grade went from an "F" to a "D."
Still, Orland did earn a "B" for passing a smoke-free outdoor air policy last year that prohibits smoking within 20 feet of commercial and professional building doorways and limits smoking in public parks.
"It has certainly improved," said Shelly Brantley with the Lung Association's Chico office. "Orland has smoking regulations outdoors -reducing the exposure to second-hand smoke."
She said the lung association analyzes three categories: Reducing exposure to second-hand smoke; smoke-free housing and the sales of tobacco products.
Orland earned an overall three points in 2013 - largely for its passage of the outdoor smoking policy in February 2012.
That effort was led by high school students associated with Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) who lobbied the City Council to pass the ordinance.
After several months, the council finally approved it but did allow designated smoking areas in local parks after smokers protested for their rights.
The city ultimately earned 17 points in the smoke-free outdoor air category, but earned no points under the smoke-free mutli-housing category or for reducing the sale of tobacco products by requiring retailers to have a tobacco sales license.
"It is great Orland passed their policies," Brantley said, although it was not an easy process.
She gave the city "kudos" for "listening to the SWAT kids," she said.
But more needs to be done.
The lung association advocates having nonsmoking units in apartment complexes, no smoking in common areas and other requirements related to multi-unit housing to protect nonsmokers and children from second-hand smoke.
In addition, it recommends communities adopt licensing requirements for tobacco retailers that would shut them down if they sold products to minors.
Sales of tobacco products near schools and parks should be banned or limited as well along with tobacco sales in pharmacies.
Sampling of tobacco products should also be banned or limited to exclude minors.
Orland City Manager Peter Carr said certainly the city bears responsibility for enforcing its own ordinances, but it has to balance that with the need to handle other criminal activity.
"I am sure the City Council is open to building a better environment in the city," Carr added, but it also wants to protect the rights of all people. Smoking is still a legal activity.
He said enacting the doorway policy and smoke-free parks was a "significant step" for the city, and it is in its first year of enforcing the ordinances and educating the public about them.
"I find most people are happy to comply with the community's expectations once they understand what they are. It takes time to establish expectations in an effective and constructive way."
So far, Orland has had zero problems at the parks since establishing limited areas where smoking is permitted, he said.
Orland also is not opposed to considering additional smoking regulations, Carr said, but it would be ideal if the housing market and community establish its own regulation.
If enough renters demand smoke-free housing, Carr said he is sure apartment owners would provide it. And the city would prefer that over regulation.
Like Holsinger, Carr believes state law provides adequate regulation of tobacco sales to minors, but it is a challenge to the city to find resources and make it a priority to attend to those regulations.