Los Banos gets an F on control of tobacco

By Yesenia Amaro / Yamaro@mercedsunstar.comJanuary 25, 2013 

Merced County and several of its cities are getting failing grades when it comes to tobacco control.

Los Banos, Merced, Atwater, Livingston, Gustine and Dos Palos received an F in the "State of Tobacco Control 2013" report released Jan. 16 by the American Lung Association in California.

The report grades all cities and counties in the state on key tobacco control policies and follows money trails to see how the tobacco industry attracts smokers, especially children and young people.

Mayor Mike Villalta, who was provided with the report Tuesday, said he could not comment on the 83-page document until he had time to review it.

Staff at the public health department have read the report.

"There's an opportunity to do more to protect Merced County from tobacco use and minimize exposure to secondhand smoke," said Cindy Valencia, a supervising health educator for the Merced County Department of Public Health.

The report grades each county and city based on three criteria: smoke-free outdoor air, smoke-free housing, and reducing sales of tobacco products.

Polls have shown that more than 80 percent of California renters prefer to live in apartment complexes where smoking is not allowed or that have separate smoking and nonsmoking sections, Valencia said.

That provides an opportunity to work with landlords to create smoke-free housing to meet renters' demands, Valencia said.

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