Secondhand smoke exposure is proven to be harmful at any level. This recognition that secondhand smoke is extremely toxic has bolstered efforts by local elected officials across the state to protect the health of their residents by adopting local ordinances that restrict smoking in a variety of outdoor areas ranging from parks to sidewalks.
California used to have some of the strongest laws in the nation to protect people from harmful secondhand smoke exposure. However, these state laws mostly focus on workplaces and other indoor areas and only a few laws restricting smoking in outdoor areas, such as those detailed below. Cities and counties have the explicit authority to go beyond state law and enact secondhand smoke restrictions in outdoor areas.
The Smokefree Outdoor Air grade is based on the smoking restrictions adopted by local communities in seven outdoor areas – (1) Dining Areas; (2) Entryways; (3) Public Events; (4) Recreation Areas; (5) Service Areas; (6) Sidewalks in Commercial Areas; and (7) Worksites. In the five outdoor areas, the city or county is given a point value between 0 and 4 based on the strength of their local ordinance. In two of the outdoor areas (Sidewalks in Commercial Areas and Worksites), the city or county is given a point value of 0 or 1 based on their local ordinance. These point values for the seven areas are then added together to calculate the overall Smokefree Outdoor Air grade using a scale of: A (18+); B (13-17); C (8-12); D (3-7); and F (0-2).
Smokefree Housing Methodology
While California has been a leader on protections from secondhand smoke, one area where people continue to be unprotected is in multi-unit housing. Secondhand smoke exposure in multi-unit housing is a serious health threat because secondhand smoke drifts into housing units from other units, balconies, patios and common areas.
The only statewide smoking restriction in multi-unit housing is a workplace restriction prohibiting smoking in indoor common areas (described below) and is not intended to protect the health of tenants. A new state law that went into effect on January 1, 2012 authorizes landlords to prohibit smoking in the units they manage. While it was legal for landlords to prohibit smoking in the apartments they own and manage prior to this law, that authority is now specifically articulated in state law. Cities and counties are allowed to go beyond state law in enacting secondhand smoke restrictions for multi-unit housing and the new state law does not preempt these local ordinances.
Cities and counties have taken a variety of approaches in passing local ordinances to try to address the problem of secondhand smoke in multi-unit housing. The overall Smokefree Housing grade is based on the grades for three types of smokefree housing policies – (1) Nonsmoking Units in Apartments; (2) Nonsmoking Units in Condominiums; and (3) Nonsmoking Common Areas. For these policy areas, the city or county is given a point value between 0 and 4 based on the strength of their local ordinance. The point values for the four areas are then added together to calculate the overall Smokefree Housing Grade using a scale of: A (10+); B (7-9); C (4-6); D (1-3); and F (0).
Reducing Sales of Tobacco Products Methodology
An important aspect of reducing the smoking prevalence rates in California is to reduce the availability and sales of tobacco products. This most efficient way to do this is through the tobacco retail environment.
California has several statewide laws related to access to and sales of tobacco products that are described in the policy areas below. The state allows municipalities to go beyond state law in enacting restrictions in these policy areas.
The Reducing Sales of Tobacco Products grade is determined by the ordinances adopted by cities/counties in one area, Local Tobacco Retailer Licensing Ordinance. For this policy area, the city or county is given a point value between 0 and 4 based on the strength of their ordinance. The point value regarding the Tobacco Retailer Licensing Ordinance is then used to calculate the overall Reducing Sales of Tobacco Products grade using a scale of: A (4); B (3); C (2); D (1); and F (0).
Emerging Issue Bonus Points Methodology
To combat ways the tobacco industry promotes the use of tobacco, cities and counties are adopting policies in new and challenging areas to reduce the prevalence of smoking in California.
The Emerging Issues section includes 6 possible bonus points and factors them into the Overall Tobacco Control Grade. Bonus points are available in the following issue areas (1) Emerging Products Definition in Secondhand Smoke; (2) Emerging Products Definition in Tobacco Retailer Licensing Ordinances (3) Tobacco Retailer Location Restrictions; (4) Sales of Tobacco Products in Pharmacies; (5) Flavored Tobacco Product; and (6) Minimum Packaging of Cigars. Receiving a total of 3 or more of these bonus points adds one point to the Overall Tobacco Control points.
Below is a quick reference for the point scale for the four letter grades received by each city and county.