Bay Area Takes Police-State Approach to Tobacco

 

Oakland Mayor Urges Residents to Take in Homeless

During her annual State of the City address on Thursday, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf called on her constituents to open their doors and residences to the city’s homeless, as union workers picketed against her for her administration’s handling of the city’s rampant housing problem.

“Give up that Airbnb. Fix up that back unit,” Schaff said, encouraging property owners to lease apartments at more affordable rates to recently homeless individuals, according tothe San Francisco Chronicle.

“In Oakland, we don’t step over the homeless we step toward them,” Schaaf said.

The city’s uptick in vagrants is tied to a general gentrification in the Bay Area, stemming from San Francisco, where artists and innovators unable to afford skyrocketing rents have migrated to Oakland.

In May, the Chronicle noted that a survey by Everyone Counts found that the number of homeless persons in Oakland had increased by 25 percent since two years ago.

Outside Schaaf’s Thursday event and planned festivities, hundreds of Service Employees International Union (SEIU )Local 102 union workers — ranging from librarians to street cleaners to city employees — reportedly picketed against the mayor. According to the Chronicle, their stated aim was to draw attention to “the real state of Oakland,” as opposed to the one Schaaf presented on Thursday.

All eight City Council members reportedly said they chose not to attend to because of the demonstration.
Despite their protests, the Chronicle noted that Schaaf said she had great respect for the protesters who were “expressing Oakland values” and speaking “truth to power.”

Schaaf also took the opportunity to rail against President Donald Trump, specifically choosing to hold her event at the Islamic Cultural Center. She did so, she reportedly said, to send “one clear message. And that is that Oakland welcome and honor all people, all families, and all communities.”

Adelle Nazarian is a politics and national security reporter for Breitbart News. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

Plan to divide California into 3 new states clears first hurdle

A plan to split California into three separate states has cleared its first hurdle. Supporters are set to begin collecting signatures to qualify for next year’s ballot.

The plan is being funded by Bay Area tech billionaire Tim Draper, who previously funded a similar proposal back in 2014 to divide the state up into sections.

That plan failed.

Draper argues that citizens would be better served by three smaller state governments, rather than one large one.

The three-way split goes like this: Northern California would include the Bay Area all the way to the Oregon border, Southern California would begin in Fresno and cover most of the southern state.

A new California would begin in Los Angeles county and cover most of the coastal areas.

Opponents say the plan would create chaos. …

Click here to read the full article

Progressive Cities: Home of the Worst Housing Inequality

America’s most highly regulated housing markets are also reliably the most progressive in their political attitudes. Yet in terms of gaining an opportunity to own a house, the price impacts of the tough regulation mean profound inequality for the most disadvantaged large ethnicities, African-Americans and Hispanics.

Based on the housing affordability categories used in the Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey for 2016 (Table 1), housing inequality by ethnicity is the worst among the metropolitan areas rated “severely unaffordable.” In these 11 major metropolitan area markets, the most highly regulated, median multiples (median house price divided by median household income) exceed 5.0. For African-Americans, the median priced house is 10.2 times median incomes. This is 3.7 more years of additional income than the overall average in these severely unaffordable markets, where median house prices are 6.5 times median household incomes. It is only marginally better for Hispanics, with the median price house at 8.9 times median household incomes, 2.4 years more than the average in these markets (Figure 1).

The comparisons with the 13 affordable markets (median multiples of 3.0 and less) is even more stark. For African-American households things are much better than in the more progressive and most expensive metropolitan areas. The median house prices is equal to 4.6 years of median income, 5.5 years less than in the severely affordable markets. Moreover, for African-Americans, housing affordability is only marginally worse than the national average in the affordable market.

Things are even better for Hispanics, who would find the median house price 3.8 times median incomes, 5.1 years less than in the severely affordable markets. This is better than the national average housing affordability.

Among the four markets rated “seriously unaffordable,” (median multiple from 4.1 to 5.0) the inequality is slightly less, with African-Americans finding median house prices equal to 2.2 years of additional income compared to average. The disadvantage for Hispanics is 1.5 years.

In contrast, inequality is significantly reduced in the less costly “moderately unaffordable” markets (median multiple of 3.1 to 4.0) and the “affordable” markets (median multiple of 3.0 and less).

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The discussion below describes the 10 largest and smallest housing affordability gaps for African-American and Hispanic households relative to the average household, within the particular metropolitan markets. The gaps within ethnicities compared to the affordable markets would be even more. The four charts all have the same scale (a top housing affordability gap of 10 years) for easy comparison.

Largest Housing Affordability Gaps: African American

African-Americans have the largest housing affordability inequality gap. And these gaps are most evident in some of the nation’s most progressive cities. The largest gap is in San Francisco, where the median income African-American household faces median house prices that are 9.3 years of income more than the average. In nearby San Jose ranks the second worst, where the gap is 6.2 years. Overall, the San Francisco Bay Area suffers by far the area of least housing affordability for African-Americans compared to the average household.

Portland, long the darling of the international urban planning community, ranks third worst, where the median income African-American household to purchase the median priced house. Milwaukee and Minneapolis – St. Paul ranked fourth and fifth worst followed by Boston, Seattle, Los Angeles, Sacramento and Chicago (Figure 2).

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Largest Housing Affordability Gaps: Hispanics

Two of the three worst positions are occupied by the two metropolitan areas in the San Francisco Bay Area. The worst housing affordability gap for Hispanics is in San Jose, a more than one-quarter Hispanic metropolitan area where the median income Hispanic household would require 5.0 years of additional income to pay for the median priced house compared to the average. Boston ranks second worst at 3.9. San Francisco third worst at 3.3 years. Providence and New York rank fourth and fifth worst. The second five worst housing inequality for Hispanics is in San Diego, Hartford, Rochester, Philadelphia and Raleigh (Figure 3).

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The San Francisco Bay Area: “Inequality City”

Perhaps no part of the country is more renowned for its progressive politics and politicians than the San Francisco Bay Area. Yet, in housing equality, the Bay Area is anything but progressive. If the African-American and Hispanic housing inequality measures are averaged, disadvantaged minorities face house prices that average approximately 6.25 years more years of median income in San Francisco and 5.60 more years of median income in San Jose.

Moreover, no one should imagine that recent state law authorizing a $4 billion “affordable housing” bond election will have any significant impact. According to the Sacramento Bee, voter approval would lead to 70,000 new housing units annually, when the need for low and very low income households is 1.5 million. The bond issue would do virtually nothing for the many middle-income households who are struggling to pay the insanely high housing costs California’s regulatory nightmare has developed.

Smallest Housing Affordability Gaps: African-American

Tucson has the smallest housing affordability gap for African-Americans. In Tucson, the median income African-American household would pay approximately 0.4 years (four months) more in income for the median priced house than the average household. In San Antonio, Atlanta and Tampa – St. Petersburg, the housing affordability gaps are under 1.0. Houston, Riverside – San Bernardino, Virginia Beach – Norfolk, Memphis, Dallas – Fort Worth and Birmingham round out the second five. It may be surprising that eight of the metropolitan areas with the smallest housing affordability gaps for African-Americans are in the South and perhaps most surprisingly of all that one of the best, at number 10, is Birmingham. (Figure 4).

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Smallest Housing Affordability Gaps: Hispanic

Among Hispanic households, the smallest housing affordability gap is in Pittsburgh, where the median priced house would require less than 10 days more in median income for a Hispanic household compared the overall average. In Jacksonville the housing affordability gap for Hispanics would be less than two months. In Baltimore, Birmingham, St. Louis and Cincinnati, the median house price is the equivalent of less than six months of median income for an Hispanic household. Detroit, Memphis, Virginia Beach – Norfolk and Cleveland round out the ten smallest housing affordability gaps for Hispanics (Figure 5).

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Housing Affordability is the Best for Asians

Recent American Community Survey data indicated that Asians have median household incomes a quarter above those of White Non-– Hispanics. This advantage is also illustrated in the housing affordability data. Asians have better housing affordability than White Non-– Hispanics in 37 of the 53 major metropolitan areas (over 1 million population).

The Importance of Housing Opportunity

Housing opportunity is important. African-Americans and Hispanics already face challenges given their generally lower incomes. However, by no serious political philosophy, progressive or otherwise, should any ethnicity find themselves even further disadvantaged by political barriers, such as have been created by over-zealous land and housing regulators.

Cross-posted at New Geography.

isiting professor, Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers, Paris

Taxpayers pay for lobbying in Sacramento

Pension moneyThe latest lobbying reports are out in Sacramento, showing how much special interests are spending to influence lawmakers. After reading the reports, you can’t blame taxpayers for feeling like the man who has been unjustly condemned to the gallows and is compelled to pay for the rope that will hang him.

When asked who spends the most currying favor with members of the Legislature, many folks will say “Big Oil” or maybe drug or insurance companies. Not even close. Those who name government employee unions as the big spenders would be wrong, too, but at least they would be getting warmer. (Unions, which thrive on involuntary “contributions,” have a huge influence on the activities of the biggest spender of all).

Far and away, the lobbying champs are California’s myriad of local governments. Through the first six months of this year, cities, counties, schools and other special districts have spent $24.3 million on influencing Sacramento lawmakers. And it is a safe bet that these governments are not spending this taxpayer money to promote tax cuts for average citizens. In fact, in many cases, they are spending tax dollars to advance their objective of wringing even more out of already beleaguered taxpayers.

Local government officials use high-sounding rhetoric to justify not spending these millions of dollars on fixing potholes, hiring first responders or addressing other pressing needs of the local community. To best serve their constituents, they will argue, it is important that they have a voice in lawmaking that may impact local jurisdictions.

Closer to the truth would be that local governments want to make sure they get a share of the “spoils” in our very high-tax state. And sometimes they seek more than a share of state revenue, they want special exemptions to allow them to increase local taxes beyond what state law allows.

A number of jurisdictions have sought and received exemptions from laws limiting the local sales tax, and in one case, nine Bay Area counties asked for, and received, an OK to create a huge taxing district to impose a parcel property tax on all residents, even though some lived many miles from the improvements for which they are being charged.

However, one of the motivators that keeps local government officials constantly scrounging for more revenue is, just like their brethren in Sacramento, so many are beholden to the most powerful political force in California, the government employee unions. Just like many state legislators, they owe their election to union support. These unions provide campaign cash and boots on the ground in election season. So, when it is time to sit down and discuss pay, the unions are represented on both sides of the table and taxpayers, if they are considered at all, are an afterthought.

With this constant pressure to raise funds for pay, benefits and pensions for local government workers, it should come as no surprise that local officials are willing to spend millions in the hope that state government will funnel more money back into local coffers and smooth the way for increasing the already exorbitant taxes locals are paying. Of course, savvy taxpayers understand that debates about where tax money comes from — be it state, local or even federal dollars — are a ruse. Every penny comes from the same location, our pockets.

The question local taxpayers must decide is whether or not money that could be used to solve local problems should continue to be spent “wining and dining” the Sacramento politicians. Certainly, the government employee unions think that this investment in Sacramento by local officials is a good deal for them.

Jon Coupal is the president of Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

San Francisco’s ban on menthol cigarettes is liberalism at its worst

ICigarettesn San Francisco, megalomaniacal tech millionaires gorge themselves on exorbitantly priced plates of nettle fazzoletti while thousands of people live in unimaginable squalor. If you are interested in dropping some coin to attend a live performance of something called Public Disgrace, featuring “sex between male dominant and female submissive; domination by female and male dom; secure bondage, gags, hoods, fondling, flogging, and forced orgasms with vibrators,” the City by the Bay has you covered.

If, on the other hand, you are one of the city’s lucky homeless, yuppie public health fanatics might graciously allow you the privilege of soiling yourself in public without the risk of a jail sentence.

But as of next April, it will be illegal to purchase menthol cigarettes in San Francisco.

For the knowledge workers indulging in “burgundy-braised lamb cupcakes with beet-whipped mashed potato frosting and chive sprinkles,” this arbitrary and capricious prohibition of a substance that offers less rarefied pleasure to thousands of their fellow citizens will not seem like much of a setback. Nor will they find fault with the reasoning of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors that menthols are “starter products” that are “typically marketed to vulnerable populations including children and young adults, African Americans, and LGBTQ people.” I mean, like, seriously.

How many of these cauliflower popcorn-eaters and consensual BDSM aficionados have ever taken a big drag from a Newport Menthol 100? The assumption that African-Americans enjoy menthol cigarettes because they are the hapless dupes of Big Tobacco is the sort of risible condescension characteristic of liberalism at its worst.

It never occurs to me the 30 or so times a day when I put another tube of brown leaves in my mouth and flick my lighter to say, “Man, this is so good for my health.” But the fact that cigarettes are bad is not exactly occult knowledge. Millions of us smoke anyway and will never quit, San Francisco do-gooders be damned.

Has it ever occurred to self-satisfied liberals that some people smoke menthols, or any other kind of cigarette, because they find it enjoyable, the same way that some of their fellows get a kick out of watching women being contractually beaten and spat upon, albeit without the consequences to their immortal souls?

I also find it impossible to make sense of the city’s argument that the “financial cost to San Francisco in direct health-care expenses and lost productivity from tobacco use is estimated at around $380 million a year.” Never mind the rune-casting arithmancy involved in assuming that every person who has ever taken so much as a puff of a cigarette and then in the course of his three-score years and ten gone in for a routine physical is costing the city money directly attributable to the existence of the demon leaf. Far more mystifying — indeed mystical — is the notion that it is possible to calculate “lost productivity.” How do they know that people aren’t working harder because they have smoke breaks to keep them going?

But this isn’t only a question of public accounting jujitsu. It is far more sinister and pernicious. To say that smokers can ever ipso facto “cost” their fellow citizens money in “lost productivity” is to claim that they are not human beings made in the image of God but rather specimens of Homo economicus — animate clusters of matter whose telos is contributing to the increase in our per capita gross domestic product. It is the same argument that used to be made by General Motors against line workers who, before the Great Flint Sit-Down Strike, were haughty enough to imagine they might be allowed to have conversations at lunch time. People are not economic variables — they are, well, people.

The consequences of the menthol ban are as predictable as they are unfortunate. People will not simply give up their cherished habit, especially when the product in question is available in nearby jurisdictions. Instead, this over-taxed consumable will become an illicit substance, and a black market for menthols will flourish. Is this really a prudent public policy decision at a time when selling loosie cigarettes can get you killed by the police on the opposite coast? This is exactly the point that Al Sharpton argued earlier this year at a series of public forums that banning menthols would only give law enforcement another excuse to lock up minorities.

I am proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with the good reverend here. Banning menthols is class warfare at its ugliest.

This article was originally published by The Week.

The California Economy’s Surface Strength Hides Looming Weakness

If you listen to California’s many boosters, things have never been so good. And, to be sure, since 2011, the state appears to have gained its economic footing, and outperformed many of its rivals.

Some, such as Los Angeles Magazine and Bloomberg, claim that it is California — not the bumbling Trump regime — that is “making America great again.” California, with 2 percent job growth in 2016, gained jobs more rapidly than most states. The growth rate was about equal to Texas and Colorado, but behind such growth centers as Florida, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Utah and the District of Columbia.

Bay Area: Still the tower of power

sanfrancisco3Over the past few years, the Bay Area has grown faster in terms of jobs than anywhere in the nation. But this year, according to the annual survey of the nation’s 70 largest job markets that I do with Pepperdine University public policy professor Michael Shires for Forbes, there is a discernible slowing in the region. For the first time this decade, San Francisco lost its No. 1 slot to Dallas, which, like most other fastest-growing metros, boasts lower costs and taxes, and has created more middle-class jobs than its California rivals.

The San Francisco area, which includes suburban San Mateo, remains vibrant. More troubling may be the weakening of the adjacent San Jose/Silicon Valley economy, which dropped six places to eighth — respectable, but not the kind of superstar performance we have seen over the past several years.

This partly reflects an inevitable slowdown in information job growth. As the startup economy has stalled, and the big players have consolidated their dominance, sector growth has dropped from near double digits to well under half that. Perhaps more telling has been a shift in domestic migration, which was positive in San Francisco earlier in the decade, but has now turned sharply negative. These are clear signs of a boom that is cooling off.

Southern California: Stuck in second gear

Southern California continues to lag. San Diego managed only a mediocre 29th-place finish. That’s better than Orange County, which managed an even less impressive 37th, and Los Angeles, by far the state’s largest job market, which reached only 40th place.

In Southern California, many seem to mistake high housing prices for economic vigor. High prices do create a wealth effect for those who own property, and this creates ancillary jobs in home repair and real estate. The area has also benefited from something of a boom in hospitality, medical and educational jobs.

But this does not make up for less-than-stellar creation of high-wage jobs. Los Angeles has expanded information jobs, much of them tied to Hollywood and the media-oriented “Tech Coast” corridor along coastal Southern California, but it continues to lose blue-collar manufacturing jobs. Professional business growth has been weakening since 2013. Lower-wage jobs in the health and hospitality industries, meanwhile, have enjoyed more robust expansions. Poverty in Los Angeles, particularly in South L.A., is arguably worse than during the riots a quarter-century ago.

Orange County suffers less from poverty but also sees rapid growth in low-end sectors like hospitality, which has grown almost 20 percent since 2011. Unlike Los Angeles, professional and business service employment — the largest of the high-wage sectors — has seen steady growth, up 20 percent since 2011, but information growth has been weak and manufacturing continues to decline.

Perhaps the biggest surprise may be the 14th-ranked Inland Empire, which has benefited from, among other things, the soaring home prices along the coast. Outside of information jobs, which have declined, the region has seen steady growth in manufacturing, wholesale trade and professional and business services. As much as the middle-class economy still exists in Southern California, it is now solidly ensconced in this region.

Future prospects

In the coming years, California’s claim of being the economic exemplar of the country may be further undermined by legislative overreach. The statewide rise in the minimum wage will hit the lower-wage sector, particularly outside the coastal enclaves. Various plans to boost the welfare state, such as a single-payer health care system that includes the undocumented, and a host of union-driven initiatives, seem certain to drive up costs and impose an ever-heavier tax burden on the state’s struggling middle class.

Perhaps most threatening, over time, may be a host of new environmental laws which will impose enormous burdens on affordable housing, energy prices and industrial growth. The slowdown in tech growth, coupled with a looming decline in the markets as the Trump agenda unravels, could weaken the capital gains juggernaut that has sustained the state through the past decade. Gov. Jerry Brown, under whose watch spending has risen 45 percent, is already predicting a large deficit for next year.

So far this decade, California has defied economic logic, largely due to the explosive growth of Silicon Valley, as well as the effects of rapid real estate appreciation. Yet, these gains have failed to reverse, and in some ways have even exacerbated, the state’s highest-in-the-nation poverty rate, growing inequality and a mounting outmigration of middle-class families. These facts suggest that it’s time to end the celebration and start focusing on how create a more expansive, less feudal California.

Originally published in the Orange County Register.

Cross-posted at New Geography.

ditor of NewGeography.com and Presidential fellow in urban futures at Chapman University.

Bay Area companies paying employees to protest Trump

While many conservative claims about paid protesters demonstrating against President Trump have been met with skepticism and dismissal — in the Bay Area — some of them might actually be getting money for being there.

Companies in the region are increasingly offering their employees paid time off to participate in protests, marches and other demonstrations as part of civic engagement policies.

“Democracy is a participatory institution; it’s not just something that takes place every four years when you have a candidate in a race,” Adam Kleinberg, CEO of San Francisco ad firm Traction, told the San Francisco Chronicle.

The company gives its workers two paid “Days of Action” per year.

Furthermore, tech giants like Facebook recently allowed their employees to take a day of paid leave to participate in the May Day immigration rights demonstration in San Francisco — a rally that was largely a protest of Trump’s agenda.

“At Facebook, we’re committed to fostering an inclusive workplace where employees feel comfortable expressing their opinions and speaking up,” a spokesman explained in an emailed statement. “We support our people in recognizing International Workers’ Day and other efforts to raise awareness for safe and equitable employment conditions.”

Major tech figures like Facebook COO Sharly Sandberg, Google CEO Sundar Pichai and co-founder Sergey Brin have all spoken out against the president, illustrating this administration’s frosty relationship with the industry.

And even those who showed a willingness to work with the White House have faced a wave of scrutiny. For example, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick resigned from the president’s business advisory council earlier this year after facing intense backlash, seeing #DeleteUber trend at the top of Twitter over his decision to offer guidance on a job growth agenda.

The policies appear to reflect a growing discontent in the heavily liberal region that Trump presents more than just policy differences — but an existential threat to their well being and daily life.

“It’s a recognition of the fact that civic engagement is something that we should be doing not just as individuals but as a company,” Buoyant CEO William Morgan told CS Monitor about his software company’s policy. “I wanted to make it more clear that we could not be passive citizens in this world.”

While the policies aren’t new — as companies like Comcast have been offering such leave for years — they appear to be taking on new life in the Trump era.

“People were wishing that I was dropped off in an (Islamic State) territory, calling me an idiotic libtard, candy-ass, saying they hope we’ll go out of business. Really nasty stuff,” Kleinberg told the Chronicle about the backlash to the policy.

Overall, Trump’s policy proposals have been met with a particularly strong response in Silicon Valley due to his stance on issues like the controversial H-1B visa program that tech companies say they rely on to recruit top talent — but one critics say comes at the expense of American workers.

And the president’s rhetoric may be having some effect, as the number of H-1B applications dropped to under 200,000 in 2017 — a 15 percent decrease from a year earlier.

This piece was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Bay Area demonstrators may be paid to protest, by employers

As reported by the San Francisco Chronicle:

It’s a common accusation lobbed at liberal protesters gathered at town hall meetings, statehouses and in the streets: They’re being paid to protest.

Thanks to a rising trend among tech companies and some Bay Area firms, some, in fact, may be.

Since the beginning of the year, an increasing number of companies have unveiled policies that allow employees to take paid time off work for political or civic activities, such as protesting, canvassing, voting, volunteering or even running for office.

Big corporations like Comcast and outdoor-apparel maker Patagonia have been offering social-justice benefits to their employees for years. But several executives said the election of President Trump, and the backlash that followed, turned them on to the idea of giving their employees time off to express themselves politically. …

Click here to read the full article

New Bay Area tobacco bans include non-tobacco products

VapingRestrictive new anti-tobacco ordinances are spreading across the San Francisco Bay Area like a cigarette-sparked wildfire. Northern California cities already have some of the toughest anti-smoking laws in the nation, but a raft of new laws and proposals take aim at “flavored” tobacco products such as menthol cigarettes and fruity mini-cigars.

Health officials argue that these flavored products are particularly appealing to teens, and that their bans are designed to keep young people from picking up an unquestionably dangerous habit. They also argue that the purveyors of menthol cigarettes, for example, target minority communities, and lead to ongoing health problems there.

The ordinances, however, share one trait that has advocates for tobacco “harm reduction” concerned. They make no distinction between combustible tobacco products – i.e., cigarettes, cigarillos, pipe tobacco and cigars – and smokeless products such as e-cigarettes and snus (Swedish-style spit-less tobacco that one places on one’s upper lip).

Tobacco “harm reduction” is a public health strategy designed to reduce the harmful effects of cigarette smoking by encouraging smokers to switch to far-less dangerous – not safe, but less dangerous – types of tobacco-related products. For instance, Public Health England, the United Kingdom’s main public-health agency, argues that vaping is 95 percent safer than cigarette smoking and therefore is a potentially beneficial alternative to smoking.

“About 40 percent of former and current adult smokers predict that removing their ability to choose flavors would make them less likely to remain abstinent or attempt to quit,” wrote Carrie Wade, the R Street Institute’s director of harm-reduction policy, in a recent Washington Examiner column. “While the vast majority of quit attempts are of the ‘cold turkey’ variety, e-cigarettes beat out both nicotine replacement therapies like the patch or nicotine gum and prescribed drugs like Chantix and Zyban.”

Vape liquids are not actually tobacco but mostly contain nicotine. They almost always are flavored. Many adult e-cigarette users prefer vaping with flavored liquids than vaping with those that have a tobacco flavor. These local bans on flavors, by the way, follow a recent statewide law that taxes vaping liquids at the same rate as cigarettes. The California Board of Equalization is currently working out the details of that taxation edict.

Wade described the essence of tobacco harm-reduction policy: make it easier for smokers to switch to smoking alternatives that cause fewer health-related problems. It might be ideal, health-wise if every smoker simply went “cold turkey,” but that’s not likely to happen, so harm-reduction advocates see vaping as a reasonable alternative. They see efforts to limit access to liquids and to boost taxes on them as policies that work against this harm-reduction approach.

Even California’s official Tobacco Education and Research Oversight Committee explained, in a public meeting earlier this year, that insufficient numbers of smokers participate in medically approved nicotine-replacement therapies. The committee, however, made no effort to distinguish between degrees of harm, and one member depicted vaping as just another form of smoking. In Bay Area cities and elsewhere, public-health officials argue that vaping is still dangerous – and they argue (despite contrary evidence) that it serves as a gateway for teens to actual smoking.

As a result of the new rules, it will become increasingly difficult for nicotine-addicted northern Californians to purchase and use vaping products. That’s particularly true as neighboring counties and cities embrace similar bans. Supporters of these bans admit that it is one of their goals to have such ordinances spread from one community to another, thus making it more difficult for people to simply go to a neighboring city to grab some vape juice.

Some proposals have become law, such as one in the Marin County city of Novato. Others are under consideration. The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors is now considering a ban after one of its committees recently approved a new proposal. Likewise, officials in San Francisco and Oakland have also introduced flavor bans.

San Francisco Supervisor Malia Cohen’s public statements focus on the sale of mentholated tobacco products. She explains that 80 percent of African-American smokers use menthol products. Nevertheless, her proposal includes all flavored tobacco, which includes vaping liquids. Oakland Councilmember Annie Campbell Washington, who led a 2016 campaign to increase soda taxes in the city, has introduced a similar measure that includes vapor products in the flavoring ban.

Novato’s ordinance, which goes into effect January 2018, requires that all residential leases in the city include a clause calling it a “material breach of the agreement for tenant or any other person subject to the control of the tenant … to violate any law regulating smoking while anywhere on the property.” In other words, tenants can be evicted from their apartments not only if caught smoking – but if they or their guests are caught vaping.

The Contra Costa County health department justifies its proposal by stating that e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is addictive, and includes various chemicals known to cause cancer and lung problems. But harm-reduction advocates don’t claim that vaping is totally safe, only that it is far safer than cigarette smoking.

Given the political bent of Bay Area cities and counties, it seems likely that most if not all of these proposals will eventually become law. The question remains whether in their zeal to improve the public’s health, these officials are embracing policies that will make actual smoking-related health improvements that much harder to attain.

Steven Greenhut is Western region director for the R Street Institute. Write to him at sgreenhut@rstreet.org.

This piece was originally published by CalWatchdog.com