City plans tobacco grant activities

The city of Susanville was recently awarded a $466,488 grant from the California Department of Justice. The grant, referred to as the Tobacco Law Enforcement Grant, is funded through Proposition 56, also known as the Tobacco Tax Increase Initiative, passed by Californians in 2016.

The grant will fund staff in a collaborative effort between the city’s police department and the administrative services department to enhance tobacco enforcement as well as provide new equipment and classroom improvements.

The two main components of the grant will be measurement and enforcement. The city detailed some of the activities the grant will fund to meet these two components.

Activities such as cigarette butt counts and undercover stings for tobacco selling merchants will be used for benchmark and progress measurement, while community outreach, classroom tobacco awareness education, neighborhood watch tobacco awareness education and parks tobacco enforcement will be the enforcement methods.

At the Susanville City Council’s Dec. 19 meeting, interim city administrator Dan Newton detailed the grant program which the city’s program manager Quincy McCourt wrote on behalf of the city.

Newton said, “That’s money, over the next two-and-a-half years, the city can use to provide a benefit to the community with reaching out to our youth and educating them,” regarding the tobacco use and its pitfalls.

Newton told the council the grant provided an opportunity for the police department to offset some

of its already budgeted costs, meaning the city will see savings to its normal operational expenditures.

Mayor Kevin Stafford asked Newton if the grant addressed the issue of vaping, saying there was a need to address the issue of vaping at city parks and schools.

Police chief Kevin Jones remarked that vaping was a big problem at the local schools at the moment and that it was one of the biggest violations at the high school.

Newton told the council the grant could be modified as needed and adjusting the scope to meet the best needs of the community.

Council member Brian Wilson commented that the council had recently altered its codes to address cigarettes and vaping as the same in the ordinances.

According to Susanville’s municipal code, a tobacco product is defined under Ordinance 11-983 § 2, 2012,

as “any tobacco cigarette, cigar, pipe, tobacco, smokeless tobacco, snuff or any other form of tobacco which may be utilized for smoking, chewing, inhaling or other manner of ingestion.”

Also, according to city ordinance 14-999 § 2, 2014; ordinance 13-992 § 2, 2013 and ordinance 12-984 § 2, 2012, the definition of smoking is “possessing a lighted pipe, lighted cigar, lighted cigarette, or e-cigarette of any kind, or the lighting of a pipe, cigar, cigarette, or e-cigarette of any kind, including, but not limited to, those containing tobacco, fluids or any other weed or plant.

Proposition 56, which increased the tobacco tax by $2, bringing the total tobacco tax up to $2.87 per pack of cigarettes, was also levied on other tobacco products and e-cigarettes as well. Revenue from the additional $2 tax was allocated to physician training, prevention and treatment of dental diseases, Medi-Cal, tobacco-use prevention, research into cancer, heart and lung diseases, and other tobacco-related diseases and school programs focusing on tobacco-use prevention and reduction.

The tax allocates $48 million to enforcing tobacco laws, $40 million to physician training to increase the number of primary care and emergency physicians in the state, $30 million toward preventing and treating dental diseases and $400,000 to the California State Auditor to audit funds from the new tax.

The proposition allocates 82 percent of the remaining funds toward services related to Medi-Cal; 11 percent of remaining funds toward tobacco-use prevention; 5 percent of remaining funds toward research into cancer, heart, and lung diseases and other tobacco-related diseases; and 2 percent of remaining funds toward school programs focusing on tobacco-use prevention and reduction.