No Butts About It

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NO SMOKING Recent cigarette advertisements placed local anti-smoking initiatives in the spotlight. Photo by Egor Myznik.

Smoke-Free Marin Coalition

Many readers vocalized their displeasure with the recent spate of cigarette advertising that appeared in the Pacific Sun and in the North Bay Bohemian

Though the editorial department does not participate in the selection of our publications’ advertisers, we are committed to reflecting the interests and concerns of our community.

What follows is a recent Q&A conducted with Pam Granger, chair of the Smoke-Free Marin Coalition (SFMC), which, with the Youth Advisory Council (YAC) membership, includes representatives from non-profit organizations, schools, youth groups and volunteers throughout Marin County. Together, they work to reduce the harmful impact of tobacco and vaping use in local communities.

What are the numbers when it comes to smokers currently in Marin County and how might they break down demographically?

Pam Granger: The last Marin-specific survey conducted by the California Tobacco Control Program showed that 7.3 percent of adults in our county still smoke. (Data provided by Marin Health & Human Services.)

How many smoking-related deaths are there in the county annually?

PG: While this data is not tracked, we do know that Mortality from Lung and Bronchial Cancer is 22 deaths annually per 100,000 population (source: California Cancer Registry), and Mortality from Cardiovascular Disease (Age 35+) is 242 deaths annually per 100,000 population (source: CDC).

From the perspective of the Smoke-Free Marin Coalition, statistics are “numbers with the tears wiped away.” Every life matters to someone, and that is why we have done this work in Marin throughout the county since 1990.

I understand that local ordinances targeting secondhand smoke in multi-unit housing (MUH) have reduced smoking- and vaping-related fires in Marin jurisdictions nearly 98 percent during the past few years. Are there other initiatives in this regard?

PG: Of 11 jurisdictions in Marin, only five have yet to close old loopholes in their secondhand smoke ordinances that leave 20 percent of MUH homes unprotected: Marin County Unincorporated, Sausalito, Corte Madera, Larkspur and Fairfax. The Youth Advisory Council (YAC) views secondhand smoke as a social justice issue for low-income, underrepresented residents who cannot move to escape their neighbor’s smoke. And SHS exposure disproportionately affects infants, children and people with allergies or respiratory problems. Also, residents may not know that it is illegal to smoke and vape flammable or combustive cannabis products in MUH where smoking or vaping tobacco is prohibited, so drifting cannabis smoke is an additional challenge for dwellers.

Through our website, smokefreemarin.org, we offer educational resources on secondhand smoke in MUH, as well as a complaint form. Upon receiving a concern, we work with all parties to protect tenants from the health hazards of SHS and ensure that property managers are in compliance with local SHS ordinances.

Recently passed ordinances in Oakland, for example, prohibit the sale of flavored tobacco products—are there similar ordinances in Marin County?

PG: For years, we’ve worked with local leaders to adopt youth access laws prohibiting flavored tobacco and vapes. Candy- and menthol-flavored tobacco, vapes and cigarillos are no longer available in stores throughout Marin, although Novato is still working to eliminate menthol. Fortunately, Marin’s local leadership resulted in proactive protection for our youth, while the state ordinance has been delayed for an additional two years due to tobacco industry interference.

What are SFMC’s future plans?

PG: In the coming year, we will continue to help individuals quit, partner with local communities to strengthen SHS MUH ordinances and enforce local flavor bans to protect children. With YAC, we will continue to expand culturally competent, bilingual support for communities of color and ethnically diverse populations targeted by tobacco companies. We’ll make sure that cessation materials and programs for local agencies, schools and parents groups are appropriate for the audiences we serve. And we will continue to support mental and behavioral health services consumers in residential settings through cessation support groups.

Visit smokefreemarin.org for more information.