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.

Laguna Beach becomes first city in Orange County to ban smoking in town

As reported by the Orange County Register:

LAGUNA BEACH — The only place people will be allowed to smoke in this resort town will be inside their homes and cars.

On Tuesday, May 9, the City Council voted unanimously to expand its ban on smoking that already covers beaches and parks.

The new ordinance bans smoking throughout the city, including on sidewalks, bike paths, alleys and in parking structures. The ordinance is the first such restrictive ban in Orange County. It will go into effect after a second reading in 30 days.

The ban also applies to vapes and e-cigarettes. Last summer, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a package of tobacco bills that included these devices in the state’s smoking ban restriction. The ban would also apply to smoking marijuana in the same places tobacco smoking is prohibited. …

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E-Cig Are ‘Roadblock’ To Smoking For Young People Says New Report

e-cigaretteE-cigarettes are acting as a roadblock to smoking for young people, according to a study from the Centre for Substance Use Research (CSUR).

Presented at the Global Forum on Nicotine, the study shows e-cigarettes are playing an important role in slashing the chances of young people starting smoking.

Using qualitative interviews with people aged 16 to 25 in England and Scotland, most of those surveyed said e-cigarettes reduced the possibility of them and other people smoking.

“There was very little indication amongst the young people interviewed that e-cigarettes were resulting in an increased likelihood of young people smoking,” said Dr. Neil McKeganey who led the research.

“In fact, the majority we interviewed, including those who were vaping, perceived smoking in very negative terms and saw vaping as being entirely different to smoking.” (RELATED: Doctors Slam Study Linking E-Cigarettes To Teen Smoking)

“I think vaping is having an effect on smoking cigarettes in that it’s taking away from it. People are moving off cigarettes and moving onto vaping,” said one participant in the study.

Many participants in the study said, “vaping will make smoking decline.” Conflicting media coverage over the safety of e-cigarettes has left many confused about how dangerous they really are.

“While it is encouraging to see that young people appear to be quite clear about the role of e-cigarettes in society (devices used by smokers who are trying to – or already have – quit tobacco),” said McKeganey.

“It’s more concerning, particularly for the young people who currently smoke, that inaccurate perceptions of e-cigarettes could result in the persistent use of combustible tobacco irrespective of the fact that Public Health England has concluded vaping is 95 percent less harmful than conventional cigarettes,” McKeganey continued.

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) concluded e-cigarettes are a valuable tool to quit smoking and criticised several myths surrounding vaping in a groundbreaking 200-page report released. (Game Changer: World Leading Medical Group Backs E-Cigarettes)

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New smoking age to take effect in California

As reported by the Associated Press:

Andrew Rodriguez was 15 years old when he smoked his first cigarette. He knows how addictive smoking can be and hopes a new California law raising the smoking age will discourage young people from taking up the habit.

“I think it’s better,” said the 21-year-old chef-in-training from Los Angeles. “I just hope they don’t raise the drinking age.”

Beginning Thursday, smokers have to be at least 21 to buy tobacco products in California. The nation’s most populous state joins Hawaii and more than 100 municipalities in raising the legal smoking age from 18 to 21. Anyone who sells or gives tobacco to people under 21 could be found guilty of a misdemeanor crime.

Huthyfa Ali, a convenience store clerk near downtown Los Angeles, doesn’t expect the new rule to affect business since he doesn’t serve many teenage customers. Ali applauded the effort to deter minors from using tobacco products, but noted that determined youngsters tend to find a way around the law.

“Sometimes they send other people to buy for them. Maybe some people will be too scared to ask” under the new law, he said.

The push to raise the minimum smoking age in California stalled for months over …

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Legalizing Marijuana … While Cracking Down on Tobacco

cigarette smoking ashesGovernor Jerry Brown just signed a package of tobacco regulatory bills sent to him by the California Legislature which is being billed as a “major victory for public health.”

Among the bills signed yesterday, was an increase in the age at which one can consume tobacco products from 18 to 21 and banning the use e-cigarette vaporizers in public places.

What is the point? In case the Legislature has not gotten the memo, the state is poised to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in California on the November 2016 ballot. So we’re legalizing marijuana but cracking down on tobacco – doesn’t that strike anyone around the Capitol as being a bit odd.

Based on polling, we know the public’s favorability of legalizing marijuana has dramatically increased over the last several decades. But is there is there any evidence that the California public is now all of a sudden demanding tougher tobacco regulation? I don’t think so.

As for controlling the use of tobacco by minors, the California Legislature is about 30 years too late. This type of legislation may have mattered in 1988 when California voters passed the first of its kind Prop. 99 which increased taxes on tobacco to fund public health programs. At that time, the Legislature was completely captured by the tobacco industry, and it has taken about 40 years to wean state lawmakers off campaign contributions from “big tobacco.”

Prop. 99 was found to have significantly reduced tobacco use and fatalities in California. At this time, public health advocates were calling for the California Legislature to send a message to the tobacco industry to quit targeting are kids and do something about the tobacco epidemic.

But 30 years later, this type of restriction is basically meaningless, and done more for appearances than any actual public policy benefit.

In the meantime, the Legislature has collected large amounts of tobacco campaign contributions, most of it funneled through the California Democratic Party, for a very long time. And now that those campaign contributions are starting to dry up, they decide it is now time to “get tough on tobacco.”

This is another example of the California Legislature trying to create a major legislative victory out of nothing, so it looks like they are doing a good job on policy issues such as “protecting public health,” and “standing up to big tobacco” in the run up to the 2016 election.

The reality is that raising the smoking age will not do much if anything to curb tobacco use. Research shows that most kids start smoking before age 18, and that restricting use to age 18 is not effective at preventing use to begin with.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than 80 percent of all adult smokers begin smoking before the age of 18; and more than 90 percent do so before leaving their teens.

So what’s the Legislature’s solution, increase the smoking age to 21, even longer after teens have already started smoking. Moreover, making it illegal to smoke could even enhance its appeal to teens, and serve to be counter productive.

As for banning the e-vaporizers in public. These are intended to help people stop smoking by providing a smoke-less alternative. The smoking cessation industry has already criticized the banning of these instruments as being counterproductive to reducing tobacco use.

In California, individuals are considered to be “adults” at age 18, so why shouldn’t they be able to make their own decisions at that age regarding tobacco use. Does the California Legislature really need to tell legal adults everything that they should and should not be doing?

The last thing California needs is the California Legislature trying to act as the “responsible adult” on every marginal issue. Adding insult to injury, is California lawmakers “declaring victory” against an industry that has been one of their core supporters for the last 40 plus years.

Kersten Institute for Governance and Public Policy

This piece was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Vote nears to raise smoking age to 21

As reported by the Riverside Press-Enterprise:

California’s Senate is poised to vote on a sweeping package of anti-smoking measures—including raising the smoking age to 21— as lawmakers try to crack down on tobacco use and the health problems that flow from it.

If the Senate approves Thursday and Gov. Jerry Brown signs off, California would become the second state to move the age to buy cigarettes from 18 to 21, and electronic cigarettes would face the same restrictions as tobacco products.

The six bills represent California’s most substantial anti-tobacco push in nearly two decades, the American Cancer Society said. But advocates couldn’t garner enough support to raise cigarette taxes, which requires a two-thirds supermajority. The Cancer Society and other groups are seeking to qualify an initiative for the 2016 ballot. …

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Scientist Debunks Claim That E-Cigs Are As Dangerous As Tobacco

e-cigaretteA study making headlines across the world claiming two e-cigarette products “damaged cells in ways that could lead to cancer,” is under fire from a leading public health expert.

Conducted by a research team at the University of California, San Diego, the study investigated how e-cigarettes may contribute to the development and progression of a cancer known as head and neck squamous cell carcinoma.

The research team “created an extract from the vapor of two popular brands of e-cigarettes and used it to treat human cells in Petri dishes. Compared with untreated cells, the treated cells were more likely to show DNA damage and die.”

What was the result?

“The exposed cells showed several forms of damage, including DNA strand breaks. The familiar double helix that makes up DNA has two long strands of molecules that intertwine. When one or both of these strands break apart and the cellular repair process doesn’t work right, the stage is set for cancer.”

One of the study’s authors even went on to claim “they [e-cigarettes] are no better than smoking regular cigarettes.” Combined with a hyperbolic press release, the study has triggered a wave of headlines claiming vaping is just as dangerous as smoking.

But Dr. Michael Siegel, a professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences at Boston University School of Public Health, with 25 years of experience in the field of tobacco control has dissected the most sensational claims of both the researchers and headline writers.

In a statement sent to The Daily Caller News Foundation, Siegel said, “this study confirms previous findings that e-cigarette vapor can cause damage to epithelial cell lines in culture, and that the damage caused by e-cigarette vapor is much lower than that caused by tobacco smoke. However, it cannot be concluded from this cell culture study that e-cigarette vapor actually has toxic or carcinogenic effects in humans who use these products.”

“In particular, the dose at which e-cigarette vapor was found to have an adverse effect was much higher than the actual dose that a vapor receives. Nevertheless, one of the co-authors concluded publicly that based on these results, e-cigarette use is no less hazardous than cigarette smoking.”

Siegel added that “not only is this conclusion baseless, but it is damaging to the public’s health. It undermines decades of public education about the severe hazards of cigarette smoking. To declare that smoking is no more hazardous than using e-cigarettes, a non-tobacco-containing product is a false and irresponsible claim.”

One of Siegel’s chief concerns about the misrepresentation of e-cigarettes is many ex-smokers who took up vaping may switch back to regular cigarettes if they believe there is no difference between the two. “This will cause actual human health damage, not merely damage to some cells in a laboratory culture,” says Siegel.

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Originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation

CA Senate Passes Bill to Raise Legal Smoking Age to 21

cigarette smoking ashesAdding another bill to its reputation as a trend-setting Legislature, Sacramento has taken a big step toward raising the statewide smoking age to 21. By an overwhelming tally of 26 to 8, the state Senate voted to prohibit sales of tobacco products to those aged 18-20.

By the numbers

According to the bill’s supporters, the ban would be instrumental in dramatically reducing not only teen smoking but smoking in general. “Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina, said he introduced the bill, SB151, out of concern that an estimated 90 percent of tobacco users start before age 21,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

That statistic emerged from a recent Institute of Medicine study making the rounds in policy circles. Researchers suggestedthat “teen smoking could be curbed by 12 percent if the age limit was raised to 21,” as LAist noted, “making it harder for minors to find somebody to buy cigarettes for them.” In real numbers, the study concluded, the age-21 limit would ensure “more than 200,000 fewer premature deaths nationally for those born between 2000 and 2019.”

Although critics have pointed out that people older than 18 are adults eligible to be drafted and bound to signed contracts, the Times observed, momentum has gathered to raise the legal smoking age for reasons unrelated to consistency in the treatment of individual rights and responsibilities.

Tobacco-related illness has long represented a significant chunk of aggregate health care costs. For policymakers, that problem grows more serious the more those costs are shifted onto government and taxpayers. “Tobacco-related disease killed 34,000 Californians in 2009 and cost the state $18.1 billion in medical expenses, according to studies by UC San Francisco,” according to the Times.

A developing trend

Trendsetting_Teens_Now_Smoking_E-Cigs-c84599d4735c853b900185fa0a93e9ebSome evidence of the policy’s likely impact has accumulated in states where the smoking age was previously hiked. “Although most states set the minimum age at 18, Alabama, Alaska, New Jersey and Utah set it at 19, and some localities have set it at 21,” according to The Washington Post. “Higher age limits seem to correspond with lower smoke rates in these states; Utah and New Jersey also have among the lowest smoking rates in the country, No. 1 and No. 5, per Gallup, while Alaska has the most improved, and Alabama is somewhat of an outlier in the South, as it’s not among the states with the highest smoking rates, like its neighbors Mississippi and Louisiana.”

California could be the first state to deny tobacco to under-21s. But other western states could swiftly follow suit. According to KPPC, “Legislatures in Oregon and Washington are considering similar bills and lawmakers in Hawaii have passed a bill and sent it to the governor.” Among the localities setting the legal age at 21, Hawaii County has been joined by New York City.

Next, vaping

Traditional tobacco products were not the only ones on the state Senate’s chopping block. SB140, introduced by state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, also passed handily, on a 24-12 vote.

As the San Francisco Chronicle reported, that bill “would include e-cigarettes in the definition of tobacco products in order to prohibit the devices from being used at workplaces, schools and public places, just as tobacco products are under the state’s Smoke Free Act. SB140 would also make it a misdemeanor to provide e-cigarettes to minors.”

The tandem advance of the state Senate’s anti-smoking and anti-vaping bills raised the prospect that the two approaches would converge in the near future, raising the vaping age to 21. “California bans the sale of e-cigarettes to anyone under 18,” the Chronicle observed, “but Leno said young teens still have access to them and they are becoming increasingly popular among middle and high school students.” If Hernandez’s bill were to pass before Leno’s, vaping would automatically be restricted in the same manner as traditional cigarette smoking.

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

California Senate votes to raise smoking age to 21

As reported by the Los Angeles Times:

The state Senate on Tuesday approved a bill that would raise the minimum legal age for buying cigarettes and other tobacco products from 18 to 21 as part of an effort to reduce smoking by young people.

Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) said he introduced the bill, SB 151, out of concern that an estimated 90% of tobacco users start before age 21. Raising the minimum age will mean that fewer teenagers pick up the habit, said Hernandez, an optometrist.

He cited a study done by the Institute of Medicine for the federal Food and Drug Administration that concluded that raising the smoking age to 21 would cut smoking by 12% more than existing control policies. …

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New Bill Could Raise Legal Smoking Age to 21

Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em — maybe.

A new wave of anti-smoking legislation is wafting through the halls of the state Capitol. And it’s been more than four years since former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger folded his cigar “smoking tent” on the Capitol grounds.

First out of the pack is a bill that would boost the smoking age statewide to 21 years from the current 18. Tapping into longstanding fears concerning children and public health, legislators have teed up a stronger political conflict around health care costs and personal responsibility.

State Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina, is the author of Senate Bill 151, an expansion of the so-called Stop Tobacco Access to Kids Enforcement Act, or STAKE.

Existing law prohibits the furnishing of tobacco products to, and the purchase of tobacco products by, a person under 18 years of age. According to the new bill’s language:

“A person is prohibited from making various promotional or advertising offers of smokeless tobacco products without taking actions to ensure that the product is not available to persons under 18 years of age. Existing law also requires the State Department of Public Health to conduct random, onsite sting inspections of tobacco product retailers with the assistance of persons under 18 years of age.”

SB151 revises those provisions such that Californians under 21 years of age are covered. And it authorizes random compliance inspections of retailers by the State Department of Public Health.

In a statement, Hernandez cast his bill as essential to preventing children from becoming addicted to cigarettes. “We can no longer afford to sit on the sidelines while big tobacco markets to our kids and gets another generation of young people hooked on a product that will ultimately kill them,” he said.

Defining children upward

But the Sacramento Bee reported something about SB151 on Hernandez’ own website. The site quotes the California branch of the American Lung Association saying 90 percent of smokers begin before they turn 19.

Critics of raising the smoking age also point out that people age 18 can vote, join the military and get a driver’s license without parental permission. And although the drinking age in California is 21, that’s because drunkenness can cause immediate harm to others, especially through car accidents.

Although the numbers does not make a strong case for Hernandez’s level of concern, the numbers likely don’t matter to his legislation’s fortunes. According to the Los Angeles Times, SB151 already counts the support of the American Cancer Society, the California Medical Association and, importantly, the American Lung Association.

The Times reports, “Smoking contributes to the deaths of more than 40,000 Californians each year, according to Kimberly Amazeen, vice president for the American Lung Association in California. She said 21,300 California kids start smoking each year.”

Targeting e-cigarettes

As the Washington Times notes, legislation similar to SB151 has failed elsewhere across the country, including in Colorado, Maryland, New Jersey and Utah. California, however, boasts a stronger anti-smoking constituency and a more effective anti-smoking lobby than those states.

In yet another demonstration of many Californians’ preference for prohibition, state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, has introduced an anti-smoking bill of his own. SB140 would restrict “vaping” e-cigarettes to the same extent that smoking traditional cigarettes is restricted.

As the Bee reports, Leno’s rhetoric focuses on the addictive qualities of smoking in the same manner as Hernandez’s. Leno said in a statement:

“No tobacco product should be exempt from California’s smoke-free laws simply because it’s sold in a modern or trendy disguise. Addiction is what’s really being sold. Like traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes deliver nicotine in a cloud of other toxic chemicals, and their use should be restricted equally under state law in order to protect public health.”

Although e-cigarettes are demonstrably safer than traditional cigarettes to smokers and bystanders, the science is secondary to the cultural politics that surround vaping.

As the San Francisco Chronicle observes, “California bans the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, but other efforts to legislate them have failed. State Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, originally proposed stronger restrictions in 2013, but the language in her proposed bill was watered down to ban e-cigarette sales in vending machines and was defeated in an Assembly committee last year.”

E-cigarettes are widely seen as both a popular substitute for traditional cigarettes and as a more tempting option for people who would not consider taking up traditional smoking. That tension helps account for the push for increased regulation and for the failure of recent legislation to meet its mark.

Originally published at CalWatchdog.com