Malibu receives ‘F’ for smoking policies


This the second year in a row that the city has received the low grade, despite its implementation last year of a smoking ban in public areas.

By Laura Tate / Editor

The American Lung Association issued an “F” grade to Malibu for its overall smoking policies in its latest Tobacco Control Report Card for California, released Tuesday.

Malibu also received “F’s” in the report card categories of Smokefree Housing and Reducing Sales of Tobacco Grade Products, and a “D” in Smokefree Outdoor Air, despite the Malibu City Council having passed an ordinance prohibiting smoking in public outdoor areas, which went into effect July of 2009, following its smoking ban on public beaches in 2004.

Malibu received the same grades last year in January.

The American Lung Association of California began issuing grades to cities and counties several years ago based on separate grading criteria and awards grades in the three categories of smoke free outdoor air, smoke free housing and reducing sales of tobacco products.

City Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich said Tuesday that perhaps the ALAC was not aware of the city’s ban against smoking in public outdoor dining areas and in recreational areas.

“I think city has been active in trying to protect health of residents and visitors Š by passing the ordinances,” Conley Ulich said.

Glendale, the leading city in last year’s tobacco report, was the only city in California to receive an overall “A” grade. Eleven other cities and counties, including Calabasas and Santa Monica, received overall “B” grades for their smoking policies. Those two cities also received ‘A” grades for Smokefree Outdoor Air, but Santa Monica received an “F” in Smokefree Housing. Westlake Village received “F’s” in all categories.

California, according the ALAC, has some of the strongest laws in the nation to protect people from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke, but the state’s laws focus mostly on workplaces and other indoor areas, and only a few laws focus on restricting smoking in outdoor areas. Local jurisdictions, like Malibu, have the authority to go beyond state law and enact secondhand smoke regulations in outdoor areas.

Grading criteria for the Smokefree Outdoor Air category is based on smoking restrictions enacted by communities in five outdoor areas: dining areas, entryways, public events, recreation areas and service areas. A grade-point system is awarded as follows: A=4, B=3, C=2, D=1 and F=0 for each area. A bonus point is awarded for a sixth outdoor area, covering restrictions on sidewalks in commercial areas. The grades/points are added together for a total point value for overall Smokefree Outdoor Air grade with a scale of: A (18+); B (13-17); C (8-12); D (3-7); and F (0-2).

Malibu’s government ordinance banning smoking in public areas prohibits smoking within 20 feet of a public event, such as a farmers’ market. It also bans smoking within 20 feet of outdoor dining areas on public or private property, such as hotels and supermarkets.

The grading criteria for Smokefree Housing include policies in multiunit housing regarding nonsmoking units, nonsmoking common areas and disclosure to potential tenants and potential buyers of information regarding smoking restrictions at the property.

Conley Ulich said the city’s original ordinance included a nonsmoking ban for multiunit housing in Malibu, but it was taken out because of opposition by other council members.

To achieve a high grade in the category of Reducing Sales of Tobacco Products, local governments must enact policies that limit the availability and sales of tobacco products by requiring conditional use permits for businesses that sell tobacco products, restricting sales of tobacco products in pharmacies, and restricting free sampling of tobacco products.

The ALAC report graded 373 cities and 34 counties. The American Lung Association in California issues the local grades annually in order to increase public knowledge about local laws and policies that help protect residents from the dangers of tobacco use, recognize local leadership on the issues and to encourage local leaders to implement change where it is needed.

According to a report from the Office of the Surgeon General, smoking is the single greatest avoidable cause of disease and death.

The Surgeon General listed six major conclusions in its report titled, “The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke:” secondhand smoke exposure causes disease and premature death in children and adults who do not smoke; children exposed to secondhand smoke are at an increased risk for sudden infant death syndrome, acute respiratory infections, ear problems and more severe asthma; smoking by parents causes respiratory symptoms and slows lung growth in their children; exposure of adults to secondhand smoke has immediate adverse effects on the cardiovascular system and causes coronary heart disease and lung cancer; scientific evidence indicates that there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke; and eliminating smoking in indoor spaces fully protects nonsmokers from exposure to secondhand smoke. Separating smokers from nonsmokers, cleaning the air, and ventilating buildings cannot eliminate exposures of nonsmokers to secondhand smoke.