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smoke 044.JPGCalifornia has one of the nation's lowest rates of smoking -- just 13.6 percent of adults light up -- but the American Lung Association gives the state low marks for reducing tobacco use, primarily for not taxing cigarettes more and not spending more on anti-smoking programs.

The critique of California is contained in the organization's annual state-by-state "report card" on anti-smoking efforts.

While praising the state as an early leader in persuading its residents to give up cigarettes, the association raps the state for not raising cigarette taxes higher than the current 87 cents a pack and decried voter rejection of a $1 per pack increase last year (Proposition 29). It said California is one of only three states that haven't raised smoking levies since 1999. It also singles out the Legislature for stalling action last year on Senate Bill 575, which would have removed exemptions from smoke-free places.

It gave the state an "F" on allocating money to anti-smoking programs, saying California's $68.6 million per year is just 15.5 percent of what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advocates. California also gets an "F" for not pushing harder to make medical insurers pay for anti-smoking treatment, a "D" on its cigarette tax and an "A" for restrictions on where smokers can light up.

The California affiliate of the organization simultaneously released a report on how local governments are dealing with smoking in the state.

It said that during the past year, five local governments have adopted strong anti-smoking ordinances, raising the number of those with "A" grades to 17, but nearly two-thirds of the state's municipalities get "F" grades.

Among the state's 10 largest cities, two -- Oakland and San Francisco -- were given "B" grades and none earned an "A." Two -- Bakersfield and Anaheim -- were given "F" grades. San Diego got a "D" while Los Angeles, San Jose, Sacramento and Long Beach received "C" marks.

PHOTO CREDIT: Brian Gorman smokes a cigarette on the front porch of his home in Sacramento. Lezlie Sterling / Sacramento Bee file, 2009.


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