While Los Angeles County remains a national leader in tobacco control and prevention, with a current smoking prevalence rate of 14 percent, Service Planning Area (SPA) 6, which comprises several South Los Angeles districts and neighborhoods, remains far behind the county.

Cigarette smoking as well as secondhand smoke increases an individual’s risk of developing lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema and stroke. SPA 6 has the second highest documented tobacco prevalence rate at 19.7 percent. Still, it is believed the true prevalence rate is much higher. Therefore, the residents of SPA 6, who are mainly African American and Hispanics, are at a much higher risk of suffering various health disparities associated with secondhand smoke exposure and tobacco use.

The Watts Healthcare Corp. Tobacco Control Program actively works to reduce secondhand smoke exposure and tobacco use by implementing an intervention that focuses on working with community agencies, faith-based organizations, and licensed healthcare facilities in South Los Angeles. The Tobacco Control Program staff assists agencies in putting into practice voluntary smoke-free policy development and implementation.

The program educates the community on the dangers of secondhand smoke exposure and the dangerous health hazards of tobacco use. The purpose of the intervention is to lead to fewer exposures to secondhand smoke, as well as decreasing the high prevalence of tobacco use in South Los Angeles.

Staff from the program have approached several agencies in the South Los Angeles area to get them to prohibit smoking entirely on their facility grounds or prohibit smoking within 20 feet of doorways, windows, vents, and openings. Various worksite companies, faith-based organizations, and licensed healthcare facilities have agreed to adopt our smoke-free policies.

Organizations and churches such as the Los Angeles Youth Opportunity Movement Watts, Joann’s Factory of Beauty, Shiloh Baptist Church, Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, Greater Olivet Missionary Baptist Church, Central City Health Center, Watts Professional Pharmacy have adopted either a smoke-free or doorway smoking policy to help aid in the fight to decrease secondhand smoke exposure and tobacco use. This will help keep smoke away from the elderly, the sick and children.

Organizations that adopt smoke-free policies receive free signage that states their facility prohibits smoking on its grounds. Organizations also received free incentives, such as pamphlets, stress reliever balls, and church fans as well as free education presentations regarding tobacco prevention and smoking cessation. The Watts Healthcare Corp. wants to continue to be a catalyst for the South Los Angeles community by providing excellent primary healthcare to improve the health of the residents.