Vanessa Hanson, the Lassen County Public Health's Tobacco Awareness and Reduction program and coalition coordinator, gives the Susanville City Council a presentation on tobacco-free parks and the program's new advertisements out at Sierra and Uptown Theater. Photo by Jake Hibbits

Public Health Department strives to snuff out local tobacco use

Lassen County Public Health, through its Tobacco Use Prevention program is looking to local leaders and the community at large to reduce the overall tobacco use in the county. It’s also aiming to make community parks truly tobacco-free. That includes vaping, cigarettes and chewing tobacco.

Public Health is inviting community members, including local organizations, to work on tobacco control in the county by joining its Tobacco Awareness and Reduction Coalition meetings, held at 10 a.m., on the second Tuesday of every other month at the public health department.

Vanessa Hanson, of public health, worked with department staff and Friday Night Live students to clean up tobacco paraphernalia at city parks in 2017 and 2018. The group found a sobering fact: there picked up more than 2,000 cigarette butts. At Fruit Grower’s Park — formerly Riverside Park — the group found more than 1,051 butts in 2017 and 1,008 in 2018. At Memorial Park, they picked up 833 butts in 2017 and 991 in 2018. The Pat Murphy Little League Field also had 576 butts in 2017 and 649 butts in 2018.

Along with the cigarette butts, the department found cannabis paraphernalia, chew-pouches and even whole cans of chewing tobacco. While Susanville’s parks are already smoke-free, they are not tobacco-free. Even so, they are still finding mounds of tobacco litter.

Another focus of the program centers around a rising trend in people underage, which is vaping. “There’s actually more than 5,000 vaping flavors on the market … and this is big-tobacco’s marketing idea to get youth,” said Hanson.

Hanson told the Susanville City Council at its May 15 meeting that the program now runs pre-movie advertising at the local movie theaters.

These advertisements highlight the industry’s targeting of youth for its products.

Exposures to second-hand and third-hand smoke are also present dangers the department is focusing on. There are more than 70 cancer-causing chemicals in secondhand smoke, and Hanson told the council, “Even a brief exposure to them is dangerous.”

“Third-hand smoke is not something that everybody knows about, but we’ve all seen it in the past,” said Hanson. “Especially in the 80s and 90s, you walked into a home that was a smoker’s home. You saw that yellow line; that’s third-hand smoke. New studies are showing that the smoke is actually staying on all of our furniture and our walls.”

Hanson raised the concerns because the third-hand smoke will stay on playground and picnic equipment at parks where individuals smoke near them. Another presenter mentioned that the toxic chemicals from the tobacco products leach off of the equipment and ground just to seep into local water sources, where people fish, children play and animals abound.