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The California Tobacco Control Program (CTCP) in the California Department of Public Health announced on Monday, January 13, that Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission (Fresno EOC) Rural Tobacco Education Program (RTEP) will receive $1.1 million in funding over five years, beginning July 1, 2020. The priority for this new grant term is building on the momentum of current tobacco control efforts to reach populations that are still underserved and disproportionately impacted by the harmful effects of tobacco use and secondhand smoke. Fresno EOC, the largest Community Action Agency in California and one of the largest in the country, has been successfully operating the Rural Tobacco Education Program for the last 29 years. The funding represents a 42% increase over current funding reflecting both excellent performance and the extent of the need.

“This is a vital program because tobacco usage rates remain high in rural areas,” said Gilda Arreguin, Fresno EOC Community Services Director. “Education and changing public policy for better health outcomes are what we are seeking.” 

Fresno EOC RTEP worked with the City of Firebaugh and partners and it became the first city in the San Joaquin Valley to pass a law that bans smoking of tobacco and cannabis in multi-unit housing (MUH) complexes. Cities and counties in California have led the way on many secondhand smoke issues throughout the years by passing groundbreaking laws to restrict smoking. As of February 2019, there are 64 jurisdictions in California that have adopted a strong law that prohibits smoking in multi-unit housing. Fresno EOC RTEP has been instrumental in assisting property managers, swap meets, farmers markets and other places where people congregate to become smoke-free.

Over the five-year grant term, Fresno EOC Rural Tobacco Education Program will focus primarily on raising awareness about the importance of smoke-free policies in multi-unit housing complexes in the rural cities of Kerman and Mendota. Secondarily, it will work in the rural cities of Kingsburg and Huron to educate the communities on policy options for smoke-free public areas and entryways. The goal of the program is that by June 2025, each of these four cities will adopt and implement policies reflective of these priority areas.

About Fresno EOC Rural Tobacco Education Program
Since 1991, Fresno EOC Rural Tobacco Education Program has been educating rural Fresno County communities on the negative health effects of tobacco use and secondhand smoke, and on policy options for addressing these harms. With renewed funding, the program will continue to provide information and education to assist individuals, businesses, multi-unit housing complexes, and other members of rural communities on implementing smoke-free policies. For more information on protecting your community from secondhand smoke and ways to make your community smoke-free, please visit our program page or call (559) 263-1265.