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Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 450,000 deaths in the United States each year are attributable to tobacco use, including one-third of all cancer deaths.

A successful Tobacco Control program involves a multi-pronged approach, primarily: 1) Policy/Advocacy, 2) Education and Outreach, and 3) Tobacco Cessation. Breathe California is one of the few non-profit organizations that recognizes and implements all three strategies in its programming. Tobacco Control advocacy work leads to reduced tobacco product consumption and increased quit rates (see below). Smoking cessation classes assist those who need additional resources to quit in order to be in compliance with new public policies. Both of these components are held together through multiple community education and outreach efforts.

Our Tobacco Control Program Logic Model which further illustrates the details of the program can be found here.

A summary of our Tobacco Control activities and outcomes for 2013-14 can be found here.


Conducting policy campaigns ensures that changes in community norms around tobacco use are long-lasting and sustainable. Education alone is not enough to change the attitudes and behaviors of an entire community. Adopting tobacco control policies has made a quantifiable difference in our community. The Surgeon General’s 2006 Report on The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke concluded that, “workplace smoking restrictions lead to less smoking among covered workers.” The report cited numerous studies that found “an association between workplace smoking policies, particularly more restrictive policies, and decreases in the number of cigarettes smoked per day by employees, increases in attempts to stop smoking, and increases in smoking cessation rates.”

Here is a list of our most recent Tobacco Control successes.


Breathe California’s Tobacco Control efforts span many decades and include numerous triumphs for our public health.

Since 1994, as co-chair of the both the San Francisco and San Mateo County Tobacco Coalitions, Breathe California has successfully advocated for many ground-breaking impactful ordinances that have promoted tobacco free communities. Some of these include:

  • 2016 – Currently advocating to eliminate the sale of flavored tobacco products in San Francisco.
  • 2015 – Reached nearly 1,000 San Francisco high school students at 17 schools with tobacco awareness presentations and smoking cessation workshops for 29 quit groups.
  • 2014 – Prohibiting the use of e-cigarettes wherever smoking tobacco products is prohibited
  • 2013 – Disclosure to current prospective tenants of smoking designation of rental units
  • 2013 – Smoke free outdoor events on city property
  • 2010 – Tobacco free pharmacies
  • 2008 – Ban on distribution of tobacco products at bars and night clubs
  • 2006 – Smoke free golf courses
  • 2006 – Smoke free transit stops
  • 2005 – Smoke free parks
  • 2003 – Requirement of a permit to sell tobacco
  • 1997 – Ban on vending machines
  • 1996 – Ban on self-service displays
  • 1994 – Smoke free workplaces that includes bars and restaurants

Here is a comprehensive list of tobacco ordinances in all the counties we serve.

Smoke-Free Multi-Unit Housing

Since 2010, Breathe California has been educating and advocating with property owners, tenants and policy makers on the importance of smoke free multi-unit housing policies. Most tenants find secondhand smoke entering their homes from a smoker in their unit a nuisance, but for many tenants it can trigger asthma attacks, breathing difficulties and/or other serious health effects. There are numerous reasons why smoke-free housing policies are supported by property owners: 1) Due to overall low smoking rates in the California adult population, there is a high market demand; 2) Reports indicate that the turnover costs for a smoking unit is 2-7 times higher than a non-smoking unit; 3) Some insurance companies offer a 10% discount on premiums to those with smoke-free rental units; and 4) Reduces the risk of fires and other property damage.

Through education and outreach efforts, Breathe California has successfully advocated for smoke free multi-unit housing policies in a number of jurisdictions in San Mateo County. Although one objective for our Tobacco Control project is to get city jurisdictions to adopt smoke free multi- unit housing policies, the success of the project is measured by the education and outreach efforts. As of 2015, due to these efforts, Daly City, Foster City, and the County of San Mateo have all adopted a policy regarding smoke-free multi-unit housing NEEDS EDITS (LINK TO THIS POLICY ADOPTION HERE – PUBLIC DOCUMENTATION – ask Karen). Many other cities are in the process of considering a policy for their city and many cities and counties have successfully passed tobacco control laws to protect public health.

You can print out or order free “no smoking” signs for the common areas of your apartment building at: http://sanfranciscotobaccofreeproject.org/no-smoking-signs/.


Starting in 2015 Breathe California will be implementing a community action model project in San Francisco. With advocates recruited from San Francisco State University, Breathe California will implement a community diagnosis and action plan to strengthen local policies around youth access to tobacco products, specifically e-cigarettes. Data has shown an increase in use of e-cigarettes by youth. We are concerned that the appealing flavors and attractive appearance of e-cigarettes will lure young people to try them and lead them to smoke regular cigarettes. This Tobacco Control project in San Francisco will develop stronger restrictions of what kind of tobacco products can be sold to minors to more aggressively reduce youth’s access to flashy tobacco products.

Help Stop Retailers Selling Tobacco to Minors

If you see someone selling tobacco to anyone who appears to be a minor without asking to see an ID, you can report the retailer to: 1-800-5-ASK-4-ID (or 1-800-527-5443), Food and Drug Branch.