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Santee's Failing Tobacco Grade: Response to Mayor's Letter

A reply to yesterday's opinion piece by the Mayor, on Santee's "F" grade given by the American Lung Association.

In the , almost every city in the County had very low grades, but they had grade points. Our overall score was the only ZERO on the entire report for all of San Diego County. 

As a matter of fact there was one area on the report, (Smokefree Outdoor Air - recreational areas) that every city in the County had points awarded except for Santee. Every city was awarded 3 and 4 points in this area in contrast to the only zero given to Santee.  It isn’t like our town isn’t in good company because 67% of all of the California cities received a failing grade!  

But, don’t you see that this report isn’t a call to , it is a report of facts that should invoke thoughtful legislation and dialog about what is reasonable and what can be improved upon. I would appreciate an article that voiced and educated about the overwhelming complexity of this economically costly and social polarizing issue. 

It is a daunting task for any city’s leadership to constantly seek improvement, revisit current policy, implement change, and balance any policy with the rights of the few and the majority.  California has not raised the tax on tobacco since 1999. When it was raised, I know that Santee worked to be awarded some of this “new found” State tax money. This same “report card” that we are now discussing was used as a criteria and benchmark for some of those cash disbursements to cities and grant beneficiaries. 

Why would we not care at all, or not want to put in some effort to look at other California towns to see how they successfully balanced the freedom of their constituents and the quality of life issue that we know public tobacco use presents?  

F should also stand for FACTS… it is indisputable, the facts about tobacco use in public places such as multi-unit dwellings. It is a fact that only 12.9% of adults in California use tobacco, which means 87.1% do not. California is one of only three states that have not raised their tobacco tax in over a decade.  Of all the states, we rank 33rd in our tax on tobacco. So it is not surprising that we only spend $89 million on tobacco prevention and control programs when the CDC best practice calls for expenditures of $441 million

Our state health insurance plans (both Medicaid and State Employee plans) have mandatory provisions for tobacco cessation support and medical aids. Yet, we do not require the same provision of private insurance plans. It is FACT that in the State of California the economic cost due to smoking is $18,135,550,000

It is a FACT that implemented tobacco prevention and control programs have had very positive impacts on state funded health care expenditures AND cancer survivability rates. 

As an American Cancer Society volunteer and the Event Chair, I am willing to work with anyone in order to address this complex issue to the benefit of our community.  Let’s not slam the report and dismiss it as an attack on personal freedom, let’s look at it as an opportunity to do what we love to do… make for everyone. I HATE that Santee ranked the lowest on this report, or any report!

SanteeMom April 03, 2011 at 06:58 PM
Thank you for this alternate viewpoint. I am a non-smoker with a toddler and I am very concerned about the second-hand smoke that we both breathe due to our neighboors smoking on the patio next to ours as well as when we are out and about in public places in Santee. I believe 100% in freedom but I also don't want someone else's "freedom" to negatively impact my family's health. I'm not sure what the solution is, but I don't think a failing grade on this report is anything at all of which to be proud.
Doug Curlee April 03, 2011 at 08:56 PM
no, but neither is it anything to be ashamed of.. people choose to smoke.. people choose not to smoke.. it's been my experience, as a smoker, that it's not at all difficult to NOT smoke where i shouldn't be smoking.. but i resent anyone telling me i can't smoke anywhere..it is a personal freedom issue to me.. and it should be to anyone..a little common courtesy goes a long, LONG way in my book.. i'm sorry that may contravene the lung assocation's desire to have every city on board with its agenda..but i'm not going to lose any sleep over it.
Ella Robbins April 03, 2011 at 09:28 PM
I think it's a joke, Dawn, that you cite the fact that only 12.9% of the population would be hounded out of their apartments if they chose to continue to smoke; and that you think it admirable that other localities in California won "points" with the ALA for making smoking OUTDOORS illegal. Little wonder that Plato, Aristotle, John Stuart Mill and James Madison (as well as other Founding Fathers) thought that the tyranny of the majority was one of the greatest dangers in a democracy. Yes, "F" SHOULD stand for "facts." Back in December, an article entitled “California posts low smoking rate, but also the most polluted air” appeared in SignsOnSanDiego.com: http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/2010/dec/08/state-posts-low-smoking-rate-but-also-the-most/ In addition to having the most polluted air without “help” from smokers, most of the west coast resides on or near the San Andreas fault and the Juan de Fuco subduction zone. Millions of urban west coast residents live daily with the risk that when the next earthquake and/or tsunami hits, the loss of life will make Katrina look like no problem at all. Instead, you "only one disease" people obsess about forcing 12.9% of the population to quit smoking whether they like it or not. Should the rest of the country insist that you guys move, too, like the displaced smokers? Why should we have to pay for your stupidity? (continued...)
Ella Robbins April 03, 2011 at 09:30 PM
(cont'd) I’m glad, Dawn, that as an American Cancer Society volunteer and event chair of the Relay for Life Santee, that you are willing to work with anyone in order to address this complex issue to the benefit of your community. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is collaborating with the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute to develop County Health Rankings for each state’s counties. It is their contention that health of a community depends on many different factors – ranging from individual health behaviors, education and jobs, to quality of health care, to the environment. Here’s their report for San Diego County. http://www.countyhealthrankings.org/california/san-diego As you will note, San Diego gets an “A” for meeting their national benchmark for smoking, and an A+ for being below the benchmark for obesity. If you want your politicians to restrict its citizens’ behaviors to achieve better health, it looks like San Diego County is getting “F’s” for drinking, STDs and teen pregnancy.
Dawn Gibbs April 04, 2011 at 02:44 PM
I never stated my opinion one way or the other, and certainly never said that 12.9 should be hounded from their homes, why would you say that? My article addressed many facts that make this a socially polarizing topic, as your personally attacking comments have proven. My article said that city officials have a daunting task to make policy AND guard the personal freedoms of the few and the many. I support people's endeavors to look to facts and make informed decisions. I greatly support our Mayor and the City Council. I also support thoughtful dialog and resonableness. The very point of the article was the overwhelming facts, and our responsibility as citizens and leaders to investigate, question, and take on best practices based on our community. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that you cite in your continued "comment" below, works with the American Cancer Society frequently, since at least 2001. Isn't it funny that one grant that the RWJF funded in collaboration with the ACS was for over $800,000 and was called "Educating Consumers about the Health Benefits of Higher Taxes"(for tobacco). They work with the ACS regarding educating and improving general and overall health...that is what they are about, and I am as well. I am sorry that your comments are so hateful and hurtful, but I refuse to continue this negative, unproductive dialog, or any dialog, with you.
mary doyle April 04, 2011 at 02:58 PM
I grew up in a household with a smoker. When my parents divorced and I got my first breath of fresh air it was then that I realized how disgusting smoking really is. I have smokers that live on each side of me and during the summer I can smell the smoke inside my house, HOUSE, not condo. I can't breath in my own house? Yeah you have the right to smoke but I have the right to breath. Witout breathing I don't live. There are mulitple problems, smoke doesn't just stay where you smoke it travels and travels far and we live in a day of selfishness. People no longer have manner or respect for each other. There will never be a resolution as far as I'm concerned.
Ella Robbins April 04, 2011 at 03:20 PM
As Dawn points out above, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (as well as the American Cancer Society, the American Lung Association, The American Heart people, et al.) donate huge amounts of money to educate people like you to believe that secondhand smoke (and even thirdhand smoke) is killing you. This is a pretty easy thing to make you believe because, as you point out, you hate the smell of smoke. (I assume you avoid barbecues on the same principle.) The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is the "charitable" arm of J&J; and J&J makes quite a bit of money on forcing people to quit if they don't really want to. When people have their own reasons for quitting (not someone else's under coercion), they quit cold turkey. If something OTHER than second or thirdhand smoke is in the process of killing you right now (which, with a 12.9% smoking rate is highly likely), all this money they are spending to stamp out smoking is not being used to find a cure for you. How do you feel about that?
rudy reyes April 04, 2011 at 03:43 PM
Mayor vopel is a hypocrite! Playing on personal freedoms regarding smoking cigarettes. While he opposed medical marijuana! Come on sick need compassion and a way to deal with pain naturally. While hypocritical mayor vopel continues to swill alcohol at city council events.
Shannon Vargas April 04, 2011 at 04:28 PM
I am an advocate for personal freedom: I have the right to breathe fresh air OR to smoke and leave a trail of toxins surrounding me and others. Since only 12/9% of the population use tobacco, then smokers should accomodate the needs of others in the community. I have several neighbors that smoke cigarettes and their second hand smoke comes into my home, everyday, and infringes upon my health, rights and freedom. I have been a lifelong asthmatic and my health is compromised by second hand smoke. It would be nice if smokers would be sensitive to the health needs of others, but my experience is they could care less. It saddens me to be at the ball fields in Santee and see a group of parents hiding off in the corner having a quick smoke. Their addiction overppowers the fact they are polluting the lungs of hundreds of CHILDREN around them. The rules are clear that there is no smoking, yet they refuse to comply! With no one to enforce the rules in public, the community must suffer due to others ignorance and stupidity! If one must smoke, then they should do it inside their own home and pollute their own environment not those near them.
Ella Robbins April 04, 2011 at 04:35 PM
Rudy, I agree with your position on legalizing marijuana, but some politicians struggle with the fact that the state would be making a law in conflict with federal law. That gets us squarely back to the states' rights issue...supposedly "settled" by the Civil War. And I can just IMAGINE how nutzo the anti-tobacco lobby would go! Their lobby is powerful enough, don't forget, to drive up taxes on marijuana 300 to 400%, making it MUCH cheaper (and probably easier to get) illegally. As a result of Bloomberg's efforts to wipe out smoking in NYC with high taxes, the effort has spawned "The $5 Man," a multi-billion dollar bootleg market that puts tobacco on the same footing as marijuana even though it is a legal substance. I also understand that the anti lobbies would continually push the government to downgrade its properties in an attempt to make it "less attractive" (like they are trying to do by banning menthol). So, all things considered, the marijuana laws should be left as-is. BECAUSE it is illegal already, nobody is spending a fortune trying to make it illegal by demonizing users as baby-killers.
Ella Robbins April 04, 2011 at 05:30 PM
Shannon, you said "Since only 12/9% [sic] of the population use tobacco, then smokers should accomodate the needs of others in the community. . .It would be nice if smokers would be sensitive to the health needs of others, but my experience is they could care less. It saddens me to be at the ball fields in Santee and see a group of parents hiding off in the corner having a quick smoke. " Why does it sadden you? You just stated that it would be nice if smokers were sensitive to the health needs of others. However, if you want smokers to quit smoking in their homes because you are an asthmatic, you--as an "advocate for personal freedom"--should get yourself a breathing device. I guess you didn't bother to visit the SignsOnSanDiego.com link I provided earlier entitled "“California posts low smoking rate, but also the most polluted air.” As an asthmatic, you should probably be aware that California and Puerto Rico, two areas with almost the lowest incidence of smoking in the U.S., also have rising asthma rates. If your breathing is impaired, you should get yourself a high quality air filtration system. Your asthma is not going to go away or be less problematic if everyone quit smoking.
joan sullivan April 05, 2011 at 02:55 AM
Dawn Gibbs: "I HATE that Santee ranked the lowest on this report, or any report." Well, Gee. You mean Santee should bust its butt to get a brownie button from the Klu Klux Klan? The point of Mayor Voepel's letter is that he -- and the City of Santee -- refuse to kowtow to an arrogant bully. The American Lung Association wrote to the mayor of Santee and said, "Make the laws we order or we will tell everybody, 'MAYOR VOEPEL OF SANTEE IS AN OLD DOODY!'" And randy Voepel fired back, "Take your Grade "F" and stuff it." Good for you, Mayor. Men who refused to grovel before threats made this country great in the past. This country needs more like you today. So does the rest of San Diego County.
Shannon Vargas April 05, 2011 at 04:15 PM
Ella, clearly you have a chip on your shoulder and misunderstood my posting. I never said to outlaw smoking! What I would like is for my neighbors especially, to smoke inside of there home instead of next to my home. If they stayed inside of there home while smoking I would be less affected. I already use breathing devices and do all the things you suggested. I have never expected my asthma to go away. This is a disease that I must live with. My asthma WAS less problematic when my neighbors did not smoke and worse once they started. I can speak from experience that second hand smoke increases my asthma symptoms. Who are you to say that second hand smoke does not affect my breathing. You are not me! I did not look at your link because from what I have observed from your comments you are an insensitive person. I find no validity in your information because of your selfishness and ignorance.
Ella Robbins April 05, 2011 at 07:35 PM
Shannon, the reason clinical trials for drugs use a control group that gets a placebo is because there are typically 2-3% of the population who get better on the placebo just because they believe they are being treated. Conversely, if someone spends millions of dollars annually telling you that secondhand smoke outdoors, in ambient air, is killing you, then conversely some people will get sick just seeing someone smoke because they believe it. The power of education is amazing--millions of Germans were made to feel sick by seeing ambient Jews, don't forget... Here's a peer-reviewed immunology study that concludes, " Nicotine is an anti-inflammatory, but the association between smoking and asthma is highly contentious and some report that smoking cessation increases the risk of asthma in exsmokers. To ascertain the effects of nicotine on allergy/asthma, Brown Norway rats were treated with nicotine and sensitized and challenged with allergens. The results unequivocally show that, even after multiple allergen sensitizations, nicotine dramatically suppresses inflammatory/allergic parameters in the lung including the following..." http://www.jimmunol.org/content/180/11/7655.abstract I'm sorry if I appear to be insensitive because I disagree with you. I'm also sorry that you're sick. But I think it's rude of you to call me insensitive, selfish, and ignorant simply for disagreeing with you and pointing you to information you may never have seen before.
joan sullivan April 06, 2011 at 09:32 AM
Mary Doyle and Shannon, you illustrate just how ridiculously extreme these demands for smoking bans in California have become. This whole thing started when the American Lung Association demanded that Santee prohibit smoking in multi-unit apartment buildings and Mayor Voepel said that the apartment landlords should each be allowed to decide for himself. Now you want your neighbor to smoke inside his detached house because when he smokes in his yard, the smoke comes into your house window. But that smoke doesn't STAY inside the house. It creeps through ventilation vents, around pipe outlets, up the chimney, and right back into the yard again. And into your house window. So you go from a demand for a law to prohibit your neighbor from smoking in his own back yard to a demand for a law to prohibit him from smoking in his own living room. Shannon, you say you have a right to demand this because his tobacco smoke gives you an asthma attack. 1. You can not be allergic to tobacco smoke because an allergic reaction is a reaction to a protein and tobacco smoke does not contain any proteins. From that interesting study Ella posted, if you are allergic to something else, the nicotine in tobacco smoke might actually be helpful. Although you'd get a more effective thereupedic dose of nicotine from Nicorette Gum than from secondhand smoke.
joan sullivan April 06, 2011 at 09:45 AM
2. Particulate matter in tobacco smoke DOES irritate the bronchial tubes (and the eyes and the sinuses -- it's why smokers drive with a window open) and this irritation can cause the oversensitive bronchial tubes of an asthmatic to spasm -- hence an asthmatic attack. But if a neighbor's cigarette smoke wafting over the back fence and diluted by umpteen cubic yards of outdoor air is enough to initiate a spasm, how on earth do you shop at the Santee malls? That dense cloud of concentrated particulate matter from the traffic on Mission Gorge Road would KILL YOU! Since you complain that a neighbor's smoke drifting into your window gives you an asthmatic attack, but you can tolerate the automobile combustion gases on Mission Gorge Road, I can only conclude that it isn't the tobacco smoke that affects you, it is the IDEA of tobacco smoke. You're like a princess who feels a pea through 12 mattresses even when there is no pea there. Yes, you can get an asthmatic attack from the emotion caused by an idea. A psychosomatic panic attack is very real. But the neighbor's tobacco smoke is not doing it to you -- you are doing it to yourself. An overactive imagination is certainly not reason enough to demand a law to prohibit homeowners from smoking in their own back yards. It also is not reason enough to ask your neighbor to take his cigarette inside. You girls don't need a detached house. You need a big glass bubble.
Kathy January 31, 2012 at 05:13 AM
I applaud Mayor Voepel. He rocks! Government is infringing on too many of our rights. I PAY for the privilege to smoke....in high taxes on cigarettes. I choose to smoke, as you have chose not to. So, who are you to tell me I can't smoke when I am outdoors? Who is the Lung Association to pressure my city government to tell me I can't smoke in my own apartment. I am considerate of others when smoking and never throw cigarette butts on the ground. The idea of 'second hand smoke' in public places is really pretty funny. Unless someone is *up in your face*, smoke in an area around you should not be a problem as it will dissapate into the air. I think some of you people should worry about what is going on in your own lives and not worry about someone smoking a cigarette.

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