Bakersfield receives failing grade for tobacco control policies

A new report released by the American Lung Association that tracks tobacco control policies, gave Bakersfield a failing grade.
BAKERSFIELD, CA- The fight to decrease tobacco use in Bakersfield has a long way to go. The city received an 'F' for its tobacco control policies.

"I'm a little disappointed. But, what's beautiful I think about Bakersfield and the folks that live here is that we take something like that and try to turn it around," said Councilman Willie Rivera.

On Wednesday morning, the State of Tobacco Control Report by the American Lung Association was released. Cities were graded on three categories.

"Free outdoor air, smoke-free housing and reduce sales of tobacco products. Those are averaged into an overall grade," said area director for the American Lung Association, Tamira Smith Lopez.

Bakersfield received only one point for smoke-free housing in Housing Authority units. In 2012, the Housing Authority of Kern County banned smoking in units it owns.

"I would like to encourage us to use this report to help make changes, not to see it as a negative," said Smith.

The city conducts stings to decrease the number of cigarettes sold to minors. In the last sting in December, a dozen high schoolers were sent to more than 500 area stores, 13.5 percent of stores sold cigarettes to minors. That's up 2.5 percent from 2012.

County officials say to improve the failing grade, they need to begin to restrict smoking in public places. An ordinance has  been introduced to the Board of Supervisors to restrict smoking in three parks.

"And, only allow smoking in the parking lot areas. The idea would be to limit the exposure that kids would have to second-hand smoke," said Matt Constantine with the Kern County Public Health Department.

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