Historic Success

For over 100 years, Breathe has been integral to clean air policy changes and increased education in Sacramento and California. From the inception of the Prop 99 tobacco tax to the end of Rice Straw burning, Breathe has been at the forefront of major improvement in Sacramento’s lung health. Today we celebrate our past and ongoing successes, and look to the future to further educate and keep up with ever changing policies and technology:

  • Breathe Youth Media Awards- Since 1995, Breathe has hosted an awards show that recognizes the year’s films that depict the least amount of tobacco use or that most gratuitously glamorize it.
  • Thumbs Up! Thumbs Down! (TUTD)- In 1994 Breathe decided to illuminate the effects of smoking in popular media on young people. TUTD has three objectives: to inoculate young people against pro-tobacco messaging in film, to raise public awareness on tobacco in film and to encourage Hollywood to reduce tobacco content in entertainment productions. Breathe continues to work toward this goal by organizing local youth to watch each year’s box office hits and screen and analyze them for tobacco use. TUTD research is used by the CDC, the Surgeon General, major news outlets and major universities to inform changes in media and create a tobacco-free future. Check out these studies for an example of how our research has been used. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5726239/ and https://smokefreemovies.ucsf.edu/whos-accountable/mpaa
  • Breathe was central to the conception and passing of the Prop 99 tobacco tax in the 1980s, despite the tobacco industry spending over $25 million to defeat the measure. Between 1989 and 1996 the California Department of Health Services estimated 2 billion fewer packs of cigarettes had been sold in California than would have been without Prop 99. This loss for the tobacco industry lost them an estimated $3 billion in sales. In 2000 the CDC released a study that showed cancer rates had dropped five times more than it had in other parts of the country.
  • In 1988 Breathe California worked to hammer out a proposal to fund both transit and roads, Measure A, resulting in a major expansion of transit service and ridership in Sacramento.
  • Light Rail – In 1981 Breathe California created its first Community Transportation Plan including recommendations to launch the first light rail feasibility study in Sacramento. The first step in bringing light rail to this region. A public-private partnership between Breathe, environmental and transit groups, and state and local agencies lead to the political will and funding to build the Light Rail system. Since then ridership has exceeded all expectations.
  • In 1978 Breathe California convinced TV weather reporters to use the Pollution Standards Index (PSI) in their broadcasts.
  • Beginning in 1974, Breathe worked to devise new rules to reduce the Rice Straw burning that would fill Sacramento with smoke each Fall. We worked with farmers, the state legislature, the California Air Resources Board, and Assemblyman Lloyd Connelly to phase out agricultural burning. Now rice straw burning is a thing of the past.
  • Between 1917 and the mid-1960s, our agency implemented community awareness and education programs, set up a free tuberculosis clinic and created a well-baby clinic. The agency also established a summer camp for undernourished children, piloted a school nutrition program, instituted a free dental clinic for children and handled mass X-ray screenings. Learn more about this on our History page.