Letter to the Editor: Tobacco use in Plumas is double the state rate

Even amid the pandemic, tobacco use remains a serious public health threat. In addition to tobacco-related death and disease, smoking also increases the risk of the most severe impacts of COVID-19 according to the American Lung Association. This makes protecting communities against tobacco-related diseases more important than ever.
Once again, Plumas County received an F grade from the American Lung Association, State of Tobacco Control. For 19 years, the annual State of Tobacco Control report has graded state and federal governments on their implementation and enforcement of policies proven to combat tobacco use. The purpose of this report is to increase public knowledge about local laws that protect residents from the deadly toll of tobacco and to encourage local leadership to take action where improvement is needed.

Tobacco use remains the nation’s leading cause of preventable death and disease, taking an estimated 480,000 lives every year. Much like COVID-19, tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure disproportionately impacts certain communities, including rural communities and persons of lower-income. According to a recent public opinion poll by the Smoke Free High Country Project, Plumas County has a tobacco use prevalence rate of 23 percent. That is more than double the tobacco use rate for the state of California!

Like many rural counties in California, in Plumas County, the tobacco use rate is much higher, and the State of Tobacco grades are much lower. What causes such a huge increase? Almost 75 percent of tobacco smokers are from lower-income communities. The tobacco industry has strategically targeted these communities, and thus, these communities carry the burden of tobacco related disease. Tobacco Companies often lower the cost of tobacco in lower-income and rural communities and offer additional discounts for tobacco products. There are an estimated 375,000 tobacco retailers in the U.S. — about 27 times more than McDonald’s and 28 times more than Starbucks — and they are disproportionately located in low-income communities. Low-income neighborhoods are also more likely to have tobacco retailers near schools than other neighborhoods.

Tobacco product discounts continue to impact our communities, especially when discounts make cheap, single-pack, flavored tobacco more appealing to youth or new users. Products like peach flavored cigarillos (example: swisher sweets) are colorful in packaging and enticing to youth and new users. At most checkout counters, these products can be found for less than one dollar! For more information, follow us on Facebook and Instagram @smokefreehighcountry or get involved by contacting Smoke Free High Country’s Project Director, Amanda Berryhill at [email protected].


Amanda Berryhill