The city of Santee received another failing grade in the annual State of Tobacco Control Report by the American Lung Association (ALA).
The report, released last week, rates policies to restrict smoking and sales of tobacco products and describes Santee as "falling far behind." Santee also received the worst failing grade in San Diego County .
Santee received an overall F grade, and was the only city in San Diego County to receive F’s in all three categories:
Tobacco Control Grade: F
Smoke-free Outdoor Air: F
Smoke-free Housing: F
Reducing Sales of Tobacco Products: F
The report highlights the fact that Santee is the only community in San Diego County that permits smoking in public parks.
According to the ALA, Santee's failing grade is comparable to most cities in California, a failing grade was the norm.
The report said that "California has fallen behind much of the nation in protecting residents from tobacco, receiving an F for failing to adequately fund tobacco prevention and control programs, and a D for its low cigarette tax."
El Cajon scored highest in East County, receiving an overall B grade for its strong smoke-free outdoor air laws, smoke-free protections for apartment residents, and effective tobacco retail licensing program. The only other local city to receive a B was Solana Beach.
La Mesa and Lemon Grove received overall F grades, but both received D’s in the category of smoke-free outdoor air for making their parks and service areas smoke-free.
Santee Mayor Randy Voepel wrote a , defending the city's right to protect the freedom of smokers:
"They may see it as a grade of "F" from their perspective, as our being graded a failure; I see this grade of "F" from our perspective as being the highest grade for "FREEDOM" we could earn. In Santee we believe in life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Our thinks long and hard before we restrict or take away one's freedom.
"If a smoker wants to blast their lungs out on cigarettes, that's their choice. If someone wants to light up in a park or public are, that's fine, if someone else complains, I expect the smoker to move away or put the thing out. We do allow smoking in public places, restaurants have the freedom to pick or choose having patio smoking, their FREEDOM of choice."
Cancer-fighting advocate , owner of and lead rallier for the , wrote a , urging that the report's findings be used proactively, and not as a political tool:
"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.
"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."
About four million people in California smoke, and tobacco-related illness remains the number one preventable cause of death in the state, according to the ALA.
What does this report mean to you? Do you smoke cigarettes? Do you know someone who does? Tell us in the comments.