Gilroy might feel like torching its tobacco report card after receiving the lowest grade in the county for the second consecutive year.
The Santa Clara County Public Health Department released yesterday its Tobacco Retail Environment Report Card, and the results aren’t pretty – at least, not for the Garlic Capital.
Gilroy is the only town to receive an “F” on a 100-point scale following a yearlong, countywide study that details cities’ efforts to curtail tobacco use.
Four cities received an “A,” eight cities received a “B” and unincorporated Santa Clara County received an “A.”
Top rated cities are San Jose and Mountain View, which scored 110 and 95, respectively; (there are 20 extra credit points available). The county’s unincorporated areas are down five points from last year, nabbing 102 points this time around, according to the study.
Even Morgan Hill, which tied Gilroy for dead last in 2010-2011, upped its game by jumping from an “F” to a “B.” Los Gatos also made great strides, sashaying upward from a “D” to a B.”
“It is very frustrating,” noted head nurse Eileen Obata with the Gilroy Unified School District. “It’s certainly a priority and we are working very hard trying to reduce this. It’s difficult with the tobacco companies doing what they’re doing.”
Gilroy Mayor Al Pinheiro said he respects the county’s efforts to address an important health issue, “but we as a city can make our own decisions here,” he said.
Pinheiro didn’t seem too ruffled by the poor grade. He’s more focused on what Gilroy has done – and will continue to do – in terms of listening to the wants of community members, educating Gilroy youth and making sure tobacco retailers understand “that we will not tolerate selling cigarettes to minors.”
“We’re going towards doing the things that our community feels is best (for Gilroy),” he maintained.
Conducted by the Santa Clara County Public Health Department, the tobacco report card grades each city in four categories: Amount of tobacco advertising, youth access to tobacco, sales and display of tobacco, and above and beyond (extra credit).
Data is compiled from observing and recording storefront advertising and displays, law enforcement review and local municipal codes. Cities received higher scores for storefronts with tobacco-related advertising covering less than one quarter to one third of total window coverage, according to the study.
A 10 percent random sample of tobacco retailers from San Jose and 20 percent random sample from each of the other cities and unincorporated jurisdiction were visited.
Law enforcement agencies that attempted decoy operations and undercover surveys of underage tobacco purchases also netted higher marks, as did community outreach and education efforts such as the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, commonly referred to as D.A.R.E.
City, health and police officials who advocated for stronger tobacco control policies also bumped up overall scores, according to the study.
In the “youth access to tobacco” category, a highest possible 40 points is up for grabs if a city levies a tobacco retailer license that earmarks a portion of the fee revenue for “enforcement activities.”
If an ordinance is “introduced to city council, but fails to be adopted,” only 10 points are awarded, according to the study.
Alluding to the City of Gilroy’s recent decision to forgo a tobacco retailer’s license fee, Councilman Dion Bracco says Gilroy’s unimpressive “F” reflects the county’s “displeasure with us for not adopting a tobacco ordinance,” he said. “They wanted to get money out of our retailers and we voted it down. I have no doubt that influenced the outcome of the grade.”
Bracco doesn’t credit the survey with much, save for preoccupying “a bunch of people that are just trying to keep their jobs… they do all this stuff to keep their jobs relevant.”
He added that high school and middle school students have “more chance of coming in contact with gang violence walking down First Street than they do of a cigarette merchant trying to lure them into their store. It’s just ludicrous.”
Other community members like Lynn Magruder, grants administrator for a local social services agency South County Collaborative, are disappointed to learn of Gilroy’s subpar score. Magruder anticipates City Council’s recent June 4 decision to outlaw smoking in all city-owned parks, save for designated smoking areas, will “hopefully” play a role in bolstering Gilroy’s tobacco report card grade next year.
The South County Collaborative’s Nutrition and Health Subcommittee will continue discussing and formulating future plans for implementing smoking awareness and prevention tactics in the Garlic City, according to Magruder. This will likely involve consulting and working with various youth groups from community organizations including the YMCA, and the Community Media Access Partnership known as CMAP.
“As long as there’s a problem with youth in Gilroy smoking, then yes – we’re very interested in the issue,” said Magruder. “It’s pretty tough for almost any community group to compete with professional tobacco advertising.”
This is the sixth year of issuing tobacco report cards, according to Amy Cornell, information officer for the county health department. She is currently attempting to dig up report cards from prior years past 2010-2011.
Cornell said the study is one of several efforts the county’s public health department employs as part of a roughly $400,000 annual contract with the California Tobacco Control Program, which is renegotiated every three years.
Since City Council banned lighting up in parks earlier this month, Sgt. Chad Gallacinao with the Gilroy Police Department said no citations have been issued to violators.
However, “that’s not to say that we haven’t contacted people and given them warnings,” he said. “But as of today I’m not aware of any calls for service.”
• San Jose: A, 110
• Santa Clara County: A, 102
• Mountain View: A, 95
• Saratoga: A, 95
• Milpitas: A, 90
• Los Altos: B, 80
• Sunnyvale: B, 80
• Santa Clara: B, 80
• Campbell: B, 80
• Cupertino: B, 80
• Palo Alto: B, 80
• Los Gatos: B, 80
• Morgan Hill: B, 80
• Gilroy: F, 50
Gilroy’s grades from past tobacco report cards
• 2011: F
• 2010: B
• 2009: B
• 2008: F
• 2007: B-
• 2006: B
• 2005: D
Note: Grading criteria may have changed in some years, which could have a bearing on the letter grade, according to Amy Cornell, information officer for the Santa Clara County Health Department.