Temecula receives an overall ‘B’ grade by American Lung Association, earns a ‘C’ in smoke-free housing

Doctor with stethoscope
Valley News - Health

The grades are in for Riverside County, and it looks like Temecula needs a boost in one specific area.

The American Lung Association recently released their 2020 grades, and while Temecula received a “B” overall in accordance with the four categories, they received a “C” in smoke-free housing. Surrounding areas ranked similar: Hemet and Murrieta also received Bs overall, while Lake Elsinore received a “C” and Menifee received a “D” overall.

Karina Camacho, a policy manager at the American Lung Association in California, said that Temecula could improve its “C” grade in housing by providing a policy toward smoke-free apartments and condominiums that would include common areas.

“Temecula only has a policy that does smoke-free common areas in multi-unit housing, so that’s why they only have a ‘C’ rather than an ‘A’,” Camacho said.

Grades also depend on what’s going on in the city or county, she said.

“We’re here as a resource,” Camacho said. “We’re looking at the city and county’s municipal code and any ordinances they’ve passed.”

The 2020 report includes looking at the policies put in place from the previous year. The four categories include smoke-free outdoor air policies, smoke-free housing in apartments and condominiums, tobacco retail licenses and on emerging issues and bonus points for newer issues like labor and tobacco products.

“While the city’s municipal code does have restrictions on the amount of units in multi-family developments in which smoking is allowed, the city is not currently working on any amendments that would make multi-family developments entirely smoke-free,” Luke Watson, director of community development for Temecula, said.

Camacho said cities can easily change their grade if they update or add in new policies.

Some of the current concerns relate more around vaping for the American Lung Association.

“I think that (for) cities this maybe wasn’t a huge thing on their radar, but with vaping it has exploded,” Camacho said.

“In the previous years, in our 2019 report which graded 2018 policies, there were only about 15 policies that dealt with flavored tobacco, in that year and the year 2018 another 14 policies passed so that number practically doubled, so we were at 29 policies at the beginning of 2019,” she said. “By the end of 2019 we were at 63 policies.”

Camacho said cities are looking to improve policies in regards to vaping concerns. According to Watson, Temecula has not seen any particular difficulties with vaping, or at least not any concerns that would fall under the city’s jurisdiction.

There are also cities that didn’t receive grades, and Camacho said she has seen an interest for some of these cities to do better.

“This year there’s been a lot of interest, and cities are already passing policies into this new year, so that’s the exciting part.”

Lexington Howe can be reached by email at valleystaff@reedermedia.com.