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August 5, 2011 > Cities prioritizing tobacco prevention efforts

Cities prioritizing tobacco prevention efforts

Submitted By Amy Cornell

The Tobacco Free Coalition of Santa Clara County and Community Advocate Teens of Today, in partnership with the Santa Clara County Public Health Department, has released the final results of the "2010 - 2011 Community's Health on Tobacco Report Card."

The Report Card, which grades all cities and the county on tobacco control policies, is in its fifth release and is funded through California Proposition 99. It is a tool to monitor and encourage cities in Santa Clara County to strengthen their tobacco-control policies through enforcement and compliance efforts.

"Safeguarding our children from the negative consequences of tobacco is critical," said Santa Clara County Supervisor Ken Yeager, who led an effort to pass a series of comprehensive tobacco control ordinances. "Tobacco retail licensing has proven effective in nearly 100 communities across California. I encourage all our cities to get on board."

Some of the findings of the "2010 - 2011 Community's Health on Tobacco Report Card" indicate that most Santa Clara County cities have taken significant strides in prioritizing tobacco prevention efforts in the face of budget reductions and declining resources. For the second consecutive year, the cities of Mountain View, Saratoga and Milpitas lead the county with an "A" grade for monitoring and enforcing laws and policies governing the sale and advertising of tobacco products in their communities. This year, for the first time, Santa Clara County joins these three cities for adopting a strong tobacco retail licensing (TRL) ordinance for the unincorporated area of the county. In January 2011, the City of San Jose also adopted a similar policy and improved its grade from "F" to "B."

In November 2010, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors adopted a strong tobacco retail licensing ordinance requiring retailers in the unincorporated area of the county to obtain an annual license to sell tobacco as well as restricting tobacco sales near schools. Currently, many cities in the county are working to strengthen their tobacco control policies, including adopting a similar policy as the county.

"Our primary goal as health advocates is to prevent kids from starting to smoke by keeping tobacco products out of their hands," says Martin Fenstersheib, County Health Officer. "There is also great support among Santa Clara County voters to prevent access of tobacco products from youth. In a 2011 public opinion poll, 88 percent of voters supported a tobacco retail licensing ordinance and 74 percent supported no tobacco sales within 1,000 feet of schools."

This year, the Tobacco Report Card grading criteria was revamped to focus more on jurisdictions efforts on enforcement and compliance of current and new tobacco laws. The report card also focuses on the following areas: adoption and enforcement of a tobacco retail licensing (TRL) or a conditional use permit (CUP), tobacco advertising sales and display, and preventing youth access to tobacco. Jurisdictions that had either a TRL or CUP were given additional points on their grade which earned them higher marks than cities without a similar policy in place. Extra credit was also given to cities and the county for extra enforcement, community education outreach (such as school education), follow-up on complaints and attending tobacco-related trainings, an essential component for promoting lasting policy solutions.

Youth decoy operations were conducted along with city police departments in 12 out of the 13 cities, plus Santa Clara County, reaching 364 tobacco retailers. Los Altos Hills and Monte Sereno were not included as they currently have no tobacco retailers within their jurisdictions. Currently, the illegal sales rate to minors in the county is 17.3 percent as reported by the California STAKE Act.

To view a copy of all cities and the county grades, a list of policies by jurisdiction and more information about Tobacco Retail Licensing, visit or call (408) 793-2700.

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