Monday, June 18, 2012

Tobacco in Bayview

Youth Leadership Institute visited
Quesada Gardens last year.
Catherine Mercedes Judge has good and bad news for residents of Bayview Hunters Point. The bad news is that residents are at high risk for tobacco-related diseases and death. The good news? The bad news is preventable.

Catherine Mercedes Judge

The most preventable cause of death in San Francisco is tobacco use. It is a major contributor for diseases such as lung cancer, stroke, and hypertensive heart disorder (heart problems because of high blood pressure). Low-income communities, especially those with many people of color and youth, are the most vulnerable.

In the 94124 zip code, almost 1 in 5 deaths are from one of these three diseases.

The risk of getting sick or dying because of tobacco is greater for people who live in neighborhoods with many tobacco stores. In San Francisco, the six districts with the lowest median household incomes (Districts 3, 5, 6, 9, 10 and 11) also have the highest proportion of stores selling tobacco.

Bayview has 81 stores that sell tobacco; the Inner Sunset has only 37.

One Bayview Hunters Point resident, 18-year-old Malaysia Saunders, is working with a team of youth advocates from all over the city to reduce the use of tobacco in her community.

"Everyone deserves the same opportunity to be healthy," Malaysia said recently. "But how can we live healthy lives if all around us are just tobacco stores? That many stores makes you feel like smoking is the norm."

Malaysia is a member of the Tobacco Use Reduction Force (TURF), a project of the Youth Leadership Institute that empowers young people as researchers and community advocates.

Malaysia and the other TURF advocates are proposing a cap on the amount of permits for selling tobacco allowed in each district. They also want physical restrictions on new tobacco permit holders to ensure they are far from schools or other tobacco sellers.

"Limiting tobacco permits in Bayview and other districts will help protect our communities from harmful and deadly products becoming permanent parts of our lives," she said.

Catherine Mercedes Judge works with the Youth Leadership Institute and leads training for the Tobacco Use Reduction Force. Email her for more information.

Learn more about other tobacco prevention projects in San Francisco through TURF's sponsor: San Francisco Tobacco Free Project.

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