County of Marin - News Releases - Lung Health Report Card

For Immediate Release
February 13, 2020

Marin Scores Well in Lung Health Report Card

Making headway with anti-smoking and anti-vaping efforts

San Rafael, CA – Just a few years ago, some of Marin County’s 12 municipalities were given abysmal grades on the annual American Lung Association (ALA) Report Card, showing that much work needed to be done to help prevent tobacco use and protect local youths from vaping.

Two hands are shown with a vaping product.Despite good lung health grades, number of young Marin people vaping on a regular basis more than doubled in recent years.

The new ALA results are in, and Marin scored straight A’s in multiple categories, including the County of Marin for its scores in unincorporated areas.

“This report card shows we’re responding to the reality that tobacco and nicotine are major threats to health,” said Dr. Matt Willis, Marin County Public Health Officer. “With all the progress in cutting smoking rates, it’s easy to forget that the leading cause of preventable death is still tobacco. It’s not a coincidence that the county community with some of the strongest tobacco control policies also has the longest life expectancy. These policies are saving lives.”

Marin’s best scores were in protections for youths from early addiction to nicotine in flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes, and flavored vaping products. Only Mill Valley remains to pass a complete ban on the retail sale of these products, and it has plans to bring the topic to its city council for consideration this spring. Additionally, Marin residents are protected from drifting smoke and fumes from tobacco and marijuana smoking and vaping in many shared public spaces and in most multiunit housing such as apartments, condos, and even houseboats.

However, work is not done, said Bob Curry, Director of Marin County’s Tobacco-Related Disease Control Program, overseen by the Marin County Department of Health and Human Services. Curry said the number of young people vaping on a regular basis more than doubled in recent years. Almost half of local youths have tried e-cigarettes at some time and 80% do not see great risk or harm from regular vaping. Some teens are also using flavored little cigars and cigarillos and getting hooked on menthol cigarettes. 

“In addition to our educational efforts, we encourage all our local governments to enforce their new ordinances that are designed to protect youths from the predatory industries that target them with candy-flavored nicotine delivery devices,” Curry said.

Five Marin jurisdictions received lower grades on one section of the ALA Report Card. Sausalito, Fairfax, Larkspur, Corte Madera, and unincorporated Marin County (which includes all of West Marin, Marin City, Greenbrae, Kentfield, and other established neighborhoods) have not updated smoke-free multiunit housing ordinances. Smoking and vaping are still permitted in 20%-25% of multiunit complexes in those jurisdictions unlike the other seven towns and cities that provide protection for 100% of all residents in multiunit housing.

The report card shows significant local reductions in involuntary smoke exposure among neighbors sharing walls, and smoking-related fires have decreased 100% in communities with the stronger ordinances.

“Much of Marin’s lower-income population resides in less-protected areas,” Curry said.

The ALA’s 2015 report card included many D’s and F’s for reducing sales of tobacco products and providing smoke-free housing. At the time, unincorporated Marin – overseen by the County of Marin and the HHS team – received an A for an overall tobacco control grade, an A on reducing tobacco sales and a B on providing smoke-free housing.

Over a decade ago, policies that protected 75%-80% of residents were considered progressive, according to Pam Granger, Co-Chair of the Smoke-Free Marin Coalition. She said based on new scientific studies the exemptions are now outdated in today's public health policies that provide 100% protection for all residents.

“We feel that residents of all Marin jurisdictions deserve equal protection from the public health and fire safety hazards of tobacco and vaping devices, which can explode,” Granger said. “We hope that these five communities will strive to improve their grades by providing protection for all their residents.”

Cases of vaping-associated lung injury have surged all over the country since mid-2019, and Marin HHS officials have advised residents to stop vaping until more is known about the mysterious respiratory illness. Local clinicians were asked to advise patients not to use any e-cigarette products until further notice.

Specialty tobacco stores in unincorporated Marin were prohibited from selling flavored tobacco products, including vaping liquids and menthol cigarettes, as of January 1, 2020, following an ordinance update approved by the Marin County Board of Supervisors. For all other retailers and individuals, the local ban went into effect July 1, 2019.


Bob Curry
Resource Development Coordinator
Health and Human Services

10 N. San Pedro Road
Suite #1010
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 473-3020
Email: Bob Curry
Marin HHS website