Beverly Hills, CA in its 2:30pm Study Session with the City Council has decided to move ahead with their proposed prohibition on the sales of flavored tobacco products and will introduce this tonight at their regular 7pm council meeting. As expected the 9 page letter of opposition by Not Blowing Smoke including its 3 pages of footnotes and references to science and data got ignored during this study session. I guess they really didn’t intent to “study” much.
Most of this was expected based on previous meetings we’ve had with the city and its various committees. The only noteworthy thing from this study session was that the city staff specifically mentioned that there was opposition from “the tobacco industry” (which I guess includes all of us!) but hardly any from the retailers IN the city. It’s interesting that they mentioned the $305,000 grant they got for enforcement and outreach. It’s these grants that are usually followed by… a push for a flavor ban. Patterns are pretty clear.
Thank you JJ for being the lone soldier out there in front representing the vapor industry!! You’re a trooper for facing all the supporters of these bad policies. You struck some correct strings with some of the council members since they actually had questions for you! It’s really a shame that the industry isn’t fighting harder though at this point there hasn’t been engagement from state level trade organizations since all this started in late November of 2016. Not a single letter in opposition, not a single word, not a single notice. After nearly two years we may we have to accept the reality that they never will and at this point lack insight and experience to effectively engage anyway. It’s just a few of us on top of these things and in the front lines and we couldn’t have wished for a better harm reduction defender to work with!
It was interesting to hear a supporter speak to how usage of flavored tobacco leads to kids ignoring their homework and becoming lazy and uninterested in their academic careers. That’s a new one that we haven’t heard scripted before by TC and PH organizations.
Jaime Rohas did a great job explaining the current conversations going on in San Francisco regarding compensation to the businesses who are adversely affected by the flavor ban even though another speaker, in support, tried to twist that into a completely different story. Then again, she’s not there in San Francisco, what would she know about what goes on there.
Valerie Yerger from UCSF was there in support which implies CA TC is spending money on the importance of seeing this thing through in Beverly Hills and elsewhere. She advocated that CA has enough money and resources for TC than all other states combined and is seeking to make CA completely “tobacco free” by 2035. Yes, that is their goal and NOT just for CA as is evident by CA playbook efforts on flavor bans in both MN and MA. Mayor Gold complimented her by saying he just wish this could happen “a decade earlier”.
CTFK has an official supporter there. What a surprise to see them out in the open like this for a change. Clearly Beverly Hills is a big target for them since they are spending money on travel and time. She immediately went after the arguments Jaime made, claiming she worked heavily in SF on the flavor ban. This is why we always urge folks to try and be later or last in line of speakers so we can address their twisted messaging and correct it as needed.
And of course Dr. Phil “but tobacco taxes pay for MY RESEARCH” Gardner of UCSF and the AATCLC was there since him and Mrs. Yerger are sort of a combination at most of these hearings. He was there to urge the city to support the “nation wide effort” of banning menthol flavors and all other flavored tobacco products. His message to the industry was “they should find other products to sell” and mentioned popcorn lung and how flavors are GRAS but not approved for inhalation.
Carol McGruder, the other co-chair of the AATCLC was there in support. Clearly all that TC money in CA is being well spent flying these folks all over the place all the time. Her main message was she fought for needle exchange and harm reduction but doesn’t consider vapor to be harm reduction and mentioned all you have to do is look on YouTube and see all the kids using e-cigs. She claimed that “for every adult that picks one up maybe 100 kids pick one up”. Such unscientific drivel she is unable to back up with actual data!
Mike was representing an LGBTQ organization with 800,000 members and says that like CA-DPH, ALA, etc. support a flavor ban due to the high smoking rates in that community. Word for word most of his speech was taken from previous ALA scripted testimony.
A lady (who’s name I will try not to butcher) from the AHA did the usual routine to stop the alarming popularity of menthol cigarettes and flavored tobacco products because it’s such an epidemic. Youth according to her perceive smoking as nasty but don’t have the same feelings towards vapor products. Funny how she just inadvertently took away the “gateway” effect argument by saying that. I guess she needs a little more training. Perhaps send her back to the “mothership” for increased indoctrination? She referred to Instagram and “juul nation” as a prime example of the epidemic that needs to be stopped. She claimed she didn’t want to be the mother of a smoker. Well, maybe educate your kids and parent them?
John Yi, the advocacy director from the ALA, was there so he decided to speak only to ecigs and cessation and how the FDA has not recognized these as cessation devices and how medical society does not agree on these products providing any cessation function. He was upset about the wild west of vaping because the FDA has been delaying enforcement and pushed PMTA deadlines.
Sophia Cohen from BH High School testified about the youth national advocacy efforts, also in support because she feels flavored tobacco products are directly marketed towards kids. And then mentioned JUUL. Which is amazing considering their respectable branding, marketing, and packaging. The repeat of the 2009 study by FDA on vapor products was once again used to claim “we don’t know what’s in these products”. Second hand vapor is a concern even if the vapor is not “as visible as smoke”. Accidental nicotine addiction and loss of impulse control were mentioned? Impulse control?
In the comments and questions from the council members they thanked all the supporters for being there. A gateway effect got mentioned which is rather hilarious given that the lady from AHA already stated that youth do not gravitate to cigarettes because they think they are yuckie. The question about why menthol was exempted from the FDA’s ban on flavored cigarettes was raised, which got answered by Dr. Gardner without actual facts other than that he wasn’t part of those meetings with the 7 senators who decided not to go along with it and then tried to take his time to talk about the 220 billion dollar tobacco industry. Luckily they cut him off. Staff could not provide data on the $ amount or volume of menthol cigarette sales in the city as retailers have not been clear in providing data on that. Another council member draws a false parallel between the tobacco industry TV ads from 60 years ago where products were presented as “healthy” and how he doesn’t buy the argument that vapor is safer because of that.
Marcella who worked on the ordinance language stated she can’t tell whether flavored vapor products always contain nicotine without having a product list to look at but “assumed” that all these products, being tobacco products, either will contain tobacco OR nicotine. This question should have been presented to JJ as the ACTUAL subject matter expert and not some policy wonk who writes legislative language and generally doesn’t understand the subject matter they are trying to write about. Marcella finally got their definition to read out loud and clearly these folks didn’t notice that 0-nic vapor products do NOT fall under their definition.
Once council member even urged to include a ban on ALL tobacco products (flavored or unflavored!) except FDA approved cessation devices and ban tobacco retailers from having places of operation that happen to be on city property. The goal being to hasten the goal of making the city “tobacco free”.
Another council said that going back to “aversion therapy” may work better than vapor products when it comes to cessation and is also in favor of being a leader in banning ALL tobacco because “we wouldn’t allow glue sniffing salons or selling products with rat poison to people” because the city needs to have the “courage of their conviction”. Can’t allow retailers to sell products that “may harm” people.