The speech Stefan Didak gave today at the Let’s Be Real, San Francisco press conference.
Good morning, everyone. My name is Stefan Didak; I am the founder and president of Not Blowing Smoke. We are an organization founded and run by consumers created in response to the California Department of Public Health campaign to mislead the public about electronic cigarettes and vapor products. This campaign has cost well over 7 million dollars of taxpayer money and has served no purpose other than to allow ambitious politicians like Supervisor Cohen to push bad policy based, not on evidence, but on emotion and ideology. It discourages smokers from choosing less harmful products and may even encourage current smokers to abandon the idea of quitting altogether.
The state’s campaign name bears a close resemblance to ours. You may have run across their big budget ads on TV, radio, buses, billboards, print media… and, well… anywhere else willing to sell ad space.
San Francisco is a city that is respected for its unwavering efforts in harm reduction during the AIDS epidemic. A city known for its needle exchange programs. A city that embraces harm reduction. Except when it comes to tobacco! Current smokers are expected to quit or die.
Despite a general consensus in science that e-cigarettes are dramatically less harmful than smoking, public health leaders have been slow to agree. Public Health England recently released guidance that current smokers should be encouraged to use e-cigarettes as a harm reduction tool.
Meanwhile in the United States, many of our public health professionals are encouraging Americans to continue smoking. Tobacco control leaders, including Professor Stanton Glantz of UCSF, agree that e-cigarettes are much less harmful than smoking. However, in a 2016 Reuters survey, nearly 50% of Americans mistakenly believe the opposite. How is this possible?
Despite many years of work on kicking butts of the cigarette variety, many trusted institutions have opted to disregard science in favor of prohibition. Smokers and those who’ve transitioned to vapor products are quickly becoming casualties of THEIR war on smoking. Media campaigns, testimony and the overall message from public health has been that smoking is no longer a problem, but e-cigarettes are.
E-cigarettes cannot legally be sold to minors in any state and CDC’s most current data also shows a sharp decline in youth use and experimentation with vapor products and cigarette smoking among teens has fallen five years in a row despite e-cigarettes. The very concept of a ‘gateway effect’ fails every aspect of the smell test.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a charity founded by pharma giant Johnson & Johnson, contributed over 4 million dollars to help create the model for these flavor prohibition ordinances.
Combined with millions more in funding from the pharmaceutical industry and a small army of well-funded lobbyists and paid testifiers, it’s no surprise elected officials continue to restrict availability of these potentially life saving products over the objections of small business owners and consumers.
The vapor products industry is primarily composed of small businesses that provide less harmful alternatives to combustible tobacco. Virtually none carry a single product made by the tobacco companies.
Vapor products have helped reduce the harm of smoking for over TEN million Americans where all other options failed. Big pharma, tobacco control and so-called public health experts prefer to wipe out a decade of progress and ensure that Californians continue lighting up by banning vapor products entirely.
Oakland, San Leandro, and Contra Costa County have joined San Francisco in prohibition of less harmful products, while cigarettes remain available in every corner store. If public health is really the goal, singling out only some cigarettes is hypocritical at best and we hope voters will make that clear to the City.
We all agree minors should not use vapor products (or cigarettes!). However, we also agree that you probably would like the taste of ice cream better than an ash-tray.
While we applaud efforts to reduce smoking, Prohibition failed. The ordinance passed by San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors ensures that current smokers will fail to embrace less harmful products.
In doing so, the city has removed the choice and freedom for adults to purchase a legal product. In a city that welcomes many lifestyle choices and encourages harm reduction in nearly all other aspects, the choice to stop smoking cigarettes is met with hostility and doubt.
I would like to thank our coalition partners for taking a stand against this short-sighted ordinance.
I place my trust in the voters of this great city. No doubt they believe the Board of Supervisors has far more important issues to address before re-enacting Prohibition nearly one hundred years later.