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Guam raises smoking age from 18 to 21

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Seeing Through Big Tobacco’s Smokescreen

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The Problem With E-Cigarettes

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City council unanimously approves smoking ban in vehicles with children

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As Part Of ‘Tobacco Nation,’ Indiana Has A Smoking Rate On Par With Developing Countries

A group of 12 contiguous U.S. states in the Midwest and South has the highest rate of adult tobacco use in the nation. If taken as a country, this group would rank among those with the highest smoking rates in the world.

According to a report released by Truth Initiative last week, Indiana is one of these 12 states, along with neighboring Ohio, Michigan, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Missouri.

The Washington-based tobacco control nonprofit has termed this group, “tobacco nation.”

Three non-contiguous states ‒ South Carolina, Maine and North Dakota ‒ have also have high adult tobacco use.

According to the report, if these 12 contiguous states made up a “nation,” it would rank fifth among the countries with the highest smoking rates, behind Indonesia, Ukraine, China and the Philippines ‒ “countries with a fraction of our financial, scientific and healthcare resources,” said Truth Initiative CEO Robin Koval.

For instance, in the Philippines, 23 percent of adults use tobacco. In the “tobacco nation,” 22 percent of adults do. The U.S. national average is 15 percent.

In Indiana, smoking is still the leading cause of preventable death, causing a host of illnesses including cancer, heart disease and stroke. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ranks Indiana’s adult smoking rate the 10th highest in the country.

Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health Dean Paul Halverson was not surprised to see Indiana highlighted in the report.

“We are horrible when it comes to funding public health,” he said. “We’re ranked 49th in 50 states in our per capita investment in public health.”

Furthermore, while the CDC recommends a state the size of Indiana should spend $70 million a year in tobacco control and prevention. Halverson said Indiana only invests $7 million annually.

Beside their proclivity for smoking, the twelve states have other characteristics in common, too.

One is poverty. Compared with the other 38 states, “tobacco nation” earns nearly 21 percent less per year, the report said.

Additionally, this region has weak smoke-free laws and tobacco control policies.

In April, Indiana lawmakers proposed increasing the tax levied on a pack of cigarettes, but it failed to pass. The state’s cigarette tax is around a dollar, one of the lowest in the county, and well below the national average, $1.71.

Indiana also has a preemptive law, common in the other “tobacco nation” states, that restricts tobacco control efforts at a local level.

For instance, even if local governments wanted to raise the minimum age for purchasing cigarettes to 21, the preemptive law would prevent them from passing policies more stringent than state law.

While the U.S. smoking rate has declined in recent years, it remains high in rural communities.

“In fact, in some of our areas, it has actually increased,” said Alana Knudson, co-director of the Walsh Center for Rural Health Analysis.

“Many of the counties in ‘tobacco nation’ are rural, and when you look at the public health infrastructure in our rural communities, it has greatly diminished,” Knudson said.

She said not enough federal funding flows into smaller communities.

“We already know 70 percent of smokers want to quit,” said Corinne Graffunder, director of CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health.

However, she said those who live below the poverty line have the hardest time quitting.

Dr. Kasisomayajula Viswanath, who teaches behavioral sciences at Harvard’s T.H Chan School of Public Health, said it’s important to study tobacco use within “the context of class, place and race.”

While the data show high rates of poverty in this region, Viswanath said researchers should take into context what compels people to smoke.

In many of these states the manufacturing industry has disappeared, said Viswanath. The threat of losing work demoralizes residents.

“It is a challenge of micro-humiliations where they’re constantly under stress,” he said “One part of it is mental health, but the other part is just not mental. It’s the stress associated with navigating and maneuvering through life.”

This story was produced by Side Effects Public Media, a reporting collaborative focused on public health.

Public smoking in Santa Monica

Yuri was visiting Santa Monica recently and took a stroll down the Third Street Promenade. He paused for a moment to light up a cigarette, and exhaled a plume of smoke.

Yuri was startled when another pedestrian tapped him on the shoulder and pointed at a nearby “No Smoking” sign.

He hastily put out his cigarette and carried the butt to a nearby trash can.

Yuri was surprised that he couldn’t smoke outside, but he wanted to obey the law and avoid bothering other visitors.
Yuri had just gotten a crash course in Santa Monica’s smoking law.

Santa Monica has long been on the forefront of protecting residents and visitors from secondhand smoke. Twenty years ago it was the first city to prosecute bars for allowing patrons to smoke.

Now, both smoking and vaping (e-cigarettes) are prohibited not only on the Third Street Promenade, but in most public places:



the Santa Monica Pier

outdoor dining areas

farmer’s markets

Outdoor Service Areas (bus stops, ATMs, and anywhere else people wait for services)

It’s also unlawful to smoke or vape within 20 feet of doors or open windows of buildings that are open to the public. (This includes all businesses and basically all places other than private residences.)

Smoking in these public areas is a criminal infraction, punishable by a $100 base fine plus penalties for the first offense; $200 base fine for the second offense within one year; and $500 base fine for all subsequent violations within one year.

Santa Monica also prohibits smoking in common areas of all multi-unit housing (both apartments and condos), and inside units for all residents who moved in after November 22, 2012.

While marijuana is now legal in California, it’s still unlawful to smoke it in public, or anywhere else that tobacco is prohibited.

Smoking marijuana in public is punishable by a $100 base fine, or a $250 base fine if it’s a place where tobacco smoking is forbidden.

There are additional penalties for smoking pot within 1,000 feet of schools, daycare centers and youth centers while children are present, unless it’s in a private residence.

So where is it OK to smoke? There are still plenty of areas where smoking is allowed. These include sidewalks and other public places where it isn’t expressly prohibited – so long as it’s not within 20 feet of doors or open windows.

It’s also allowed in single-family homes, and inside apartments or condos that were occupied before November 22, 2012 (unless the unit was designated as non-smoking).

If you have questions or need information about smoking laws in Santa Monica, please call the City Attorney’s Office at (310) 458-8336 or visit

The Consumer Protection Division of the City Attorney’s Office enforces the law and educates the public about tenants’ rights, fair housing, consumer protection and other issues. They can be reached at 310-458-8336 or

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