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Posts Tagged 'cigarette'

Ban On Flavored Tobacco Products

This is a bit of an odd subject to talk about, but I feel it should be said because even though it is well known and no one is going to say that tobacco is good for you there are some problems with the new law that was passed in San Francisco banning all flavored tobacco products.

Supervisor Malia Cohen pushed through legislation in 60 days with very little fanfare to ban flavored tobacco products. Not tobacco, only flavored tobacco products specifically pointing out menthol cigarettes. While flavored cigarettes other than menthol were banned in 2009, menthol was given a stay of execution for some reason. I suppose because to a lot of people at the time menthol was seen as normal for cigarettes. It could also have been that because 80% of the people who smoke menthol cigarettes are African-American. This was a big part of her target in the passing of this law — to specifically target African-Americans.

For tobacco this means that menthol cigarettes, flavored cigars and cigarillos [like the grape and cherry Swishers], shisha hookah tobacco and flavored smokeless tobacco. The problem I see with this is that it was aimed at only African-Americans in it’s passage [she may not be aware of this, but Asians typically in San Francisco tend towards menthol as well]. Shisha is used by mostly a Middle-Eastern minority of people though you might occasionally see a person of non-Middle-Eastern decent partake at a restaurant that has hookah nights [there are a few in the city]. Tobacco causes lung cancer and other health problems for all people so I’m just thinking she should have passed a law banning all tobacco sales in San Francisco. The worst part of this is that it doesn’t ban the ownership or use of said products, only the sale so the law is a bit of feel good sophistry to help politicians look good, but won’t really cure the problem only make people who want the product to work a little bit harder. Now I’m sure there were be cigarette stores popping up in Daly City with signs saying Menthol Cigarettes Sold Here! The idea that if you stop selling menthol cigarettes in San Francisco people will stop smoking them is a fallacious argument [See Sophistry].

While this is bad in that it looks like they’re trying to bring about change, but not there is another product covered under this ruling that has the potential to actually cause more smoking related diseases for people and that is the ban on flavored e-juice used in vaporizers. 

The State of California classified  e-juice as a tobacco product so that they could receive tax money from it since many people were using vaporizers to move away from cigarettes. While long term affects of vaporizers are not fully known yet, doctors agree that vaporizing is much better than smoking cigarettes. No one is saying it’s healthy, but it has much lower risks than smoking cigarettes. The State government was able to classify e-juice as a tobacco product due to the fact that currently nicotine [the addictive component] is chemically extracted from tobacco leaves. There is no tobacco present in the nicotine as it is all lab grade and pure, but it was an easy enough loophole to use to classify the product as tobacco so they could tax it.

The law that Malia Cohen presented and had passed was filled with the standard think of the children angle that is frequently used saying that because the e-juice has candy flavorings that it is being marketed towards children. She missed the paper from Center For Disease Control that stated since 2015 the number of minors smoking or using vaporizers has dropped significantly. There was also mention of a string of harmful chemicals found in e-juice which upon further research showed that they were found in shipments coming in from outside the US and mostly from China. She also missed the abstract from the FDA that showed minimal effect on the body from the use of e-cigarettes, yet that they were a good aid in getting people off the far more dangerous tobacco. Currently, the majority of e-juice that is available in the US is made in the US from vegetable glycerin [a thickener used in foods], propylene glycol [another sweetener used in foods], food grade flavorings and nicotine in that order. Four items three of which are food grade vs. the 4000+ noxious chemicals in a cigarette. UCSF is even running a smoking cessation program using vaporizers because they feel that they are better alternative to smoking cessation.

While not a scientific study I have seen a rise in people using vaporizers around the City when I’m out and about. I haven’t seen anyone I could tell was a minor, but I rarely have seen many people who look that young using vaporizers. Many people who use e-cigarettes and vaporizers to stop smoking want to get away from tobacco to the point that they even want to get away from the taste of tobacco. That is why there are flavored e-liquids out there. The smell from e-liquids doesn’t linger as long as cigarettes and it is far more difficult to offend someone with the smell of blueberry cheesecake than tobacco [my opinion of course].

Again though, like with menthol cigarettes the ownership and use isn’t illegal, only the sale. While there are a handful of vape shops in San Francisco most of them started as head shops that also sell bongs, water pipes and other drug related supplies. It is very easy to purchase e-liquids from online suppliers. Actually after you’ve created an account and proved you’re over 21 it’s actually much easier to purchase online because the selection is usually higher than what your local shop will carry, so again, the law has no teeth.

There are a handful of vape shops in San Francisco, maybe no more than 1o and I believe this is way. Most are head shops that have added vaping products, but there’s only a couple that sell only vaping products and they have said they will have to close up when the law goes into effect next year. Some of the other stores have said they will have to close as well especially in the Sunset District saying that the menthol cigarettes is what gets people into the store, given the higher Asian population, and that their sales will plummet when the law goes into effect. We’ll see if that’s true. 

To sum it all up, yes, I whole heartedly agree that tobacco is bad for you, but I think this law is rather flawed as it really doesn’t cause much of an effect on the public using tobacco or tobacco related products. It will definitely make menthol smokers work a little harder, but I’m doubting that it will make them quit. Likewise, the ban on vaping e-juice will leave only the disposal e-cigarettes that are produced and marketed by big tobacco companies as the only choice for those wanting to start to quit smoking, and most of those disposable e-cigarettes are made in China, unlike the safer US made e-juice.

BTW: If you want to see a video that people should have been saying, but think of the children! You might want to watch this one.

Eric Mar vs. The E-Cig

e_cig_supesI think some of you might believe that I enjoy railing on Supervisor Eric Mar. I don’t think it’s because of what he believes in so much as how he says it. His current project which passed was getting electronic cigarettes or e-cigarettes banned everywhere that smoking is banned. I don’t have much of a problem with this because most people don’t have a good understanding of how an e-cigarette works or why people like them.

I have been a smoker for a long time. I’ll even go so far as to admit that it’s been the biggest addiction that’s been hard to break for me. I remember the good old days [I think I was still a teenager] when you could buy cigarettes anywhere even a pharmacy and you could pretty much smoke anywhere. Movie theaters, grocery stores, restaurants, night clubs, hospitals probably had a smoking room right next to the delivery room. Then people became aware that it was bad for you and San Francisco in all it’s draconian-ness banned smoking from well, pretty much everywhere except public streets. I remember hating that at the time, but I came to accept it and it helped me to cut back a little bit.

wpid-halo-triton-iridescence-starterkitOne day, I like many others decided to try an e-cigarette that was a disposable that the shop that sold my cigarettes was also selling. Since I drive for a living it might be nice if my car didn’t smell like smoke and it might get me a few more tips. From that first day I was hooked. That one disposable lasted me two days and I went from smoking a pack of cigarettes a day to one fifth or four cigarettes a day. I went all out and got a non-disposable e-cigarette that was a little bit bigger and joined the small, but growing clan of vapers as they like to refer to themselves. This is where the problems start.

People into e-cigarettes don’t always seem to realize that what they’re doing while healthier [I’ll get into that in a second] than smoking still looks a lot like smoking to anyone else. Even smokers. Some of those people feel like they should be able to vape in church, schools, pretty much anywhere that you currently can’t because, it’s not smoking. Well, while that’s true the rest of world at the moment still thinks it’s smoking. It looks like, but what it is is a vapor created by heating a combination of vegetable glycerin, propylene glycol and food grade flavoring that also usually contains nicotine [you can get liquids for the electronic cigarettes that contain no nicotine]. Vegetable glycerin is just what it sounds like. It comes from vegetables and is used in food as a thickener. Propylene glycol sounds kind of scary, but is a sugar alcohol that was used in hospitals to disinfect the air. Hospitals stopped using it when they started to get bigger and the cost of the PG started to get too high, but many veterinarians still use it. It’s safe unless you’ve got an allergy to it, but then again the same holds true of water. While doctors don’t want to come out and say it’s harmless, or safe they will at least admit that e-cigarettes are much better than smoking a cigarette.

Where does Eric Mar come into this? Well he is the one that got the law passed banning e-cigarettes anywhere other forms of smoking are banned. That’s not too big a deal in my book. His original arguments are what got to me. One of the things with the liquids used by e-cigarettes is that they can be flavored to be pretty much anything you want. I’m vaping some coconut mango right now and have root beer, Jamacian rum, Kentucky Bourbon in addition to my Dominican and Havana tobacco flavors. There are lots of candy flavors available and some of the few shops in San Francisco actually only stock the berry and candy flavored liquids. The problem was that kids also like candy so if they’re making a candy flavored nicotine liquid they must be marketing it to kids. Never mind the fact that adults like candy as well or that people get carded much more frequently than when Eric Mar or I were in High School. While there is a group of vapers who are into the candy flavors only and can’t understand why someone would want a tobacco flavor these are the 20 something crowd, not little kids. Eric was quoted as saying the line he frequently uses of, we have to think of the kids. Well, yes we do, but we also should then ban cars and alcohol and knives and bikes and anything else that might hurt a child because there’s a lot of stuff out there. When I was a kid and it was easier to get cigarettes I think I can count on one hand the number of kids I saw with a cigarette. High School was a bit different, but that was the late 70’s and it was still kind of cool and rebellious back then, but the word kids denotes young children not teenagers. He’s since taken a step back from that since getting people to get behind him on the ban wasn’t really that hard. I honestly don’t think it was a bad idea and I do believe it has at least gotten a few more people to look at the alternative to the dangers of smoking. For many of us it’s been a good way to get tobacco and the thousands of harmful chemicals out of our bodies for a couple of chemicals that don’t cause cancer and help us move away from our addiction.

Oh, if you’re wondering I just passed two months without cigarettes.

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Phyllis Diller and the Purple Onion

I shed a tear today when I discovered that Phyllis Diller died. Many of you vaguely remember her, but I as a young kid in the 60’s remember her well from her TV appearances. Here hair defined the term fright wig, but while she looked scary as hell she was always funny and it was that old school vaudevillian comedy.  I actually ran into her as a child when my Mom pawned me off to my Uncle Al. I was about seven. I think I screamed or wet my pants at seeing her in person because she was scary and loud.

While she wasn’t born in San Francisco, but she got her start here at a little club called the Purple Onion. A strange club that my parents used to tell me was at times secretly a gay club where one of the gay partners would dress as the opposite sex so as not to be so obvious. For a female comedienne with a husband named Fang, this was the perfect spot for her. It was quite a club with a bit of an odd bent to it. The Smothers Brothers recorded an album there, Richard Pryor did some of his earliest shows there, I believe Lenny Bruce even got arrested there for his obscene performance which didn’t involve anything more than talking.

It’s a dingy cellar club that had a kind of warm feeling to it like your local dive bar, it’s ugly and dirty, but it’s your place to call home. Beat poets would hang out there for the cheap drinks if Vesuvios was too packed. My old Uncle Al frequented the place with his buddy Larry Ferlinghetti I’m sure.

It’s changed quite a bit since it opened in 1952 unlike Phyllis who has had that crazy old woman look since I was a child. I miss her and am sorry to see her go, but I’m sure her there will be lots of shows on for us in the next few weeks to remember her.

The Chain Gang of San Francisco

San Francisco has a bit of a conundrum on its hands with business. If you have more than three stores you are considered a “chain store” and can’t open any more stores even if there is a demand for your services. Yet, why is there a starbucks every half mile? Why are there so many Chevron, 76 and Shell stations? Why are there so many 7-11’s?

According to the books, San Francisco wants to keep local businesses at the forefront. So the mom and pop who invested money in a 7-11 to open it up in their neighborhood aren’t considered local businesses, yet myspace, google, apple, microsoft can open offices here while they aren’t San Francisco based businesses? Interesting way of thinking. There was a paint store that wanted to open up in the old Hollywood video store [chain!] on Mission street, but because they were a distributor of Glidden paint they were considered a chain and couldn’t move in. Yet we have a paint store in the Sunset that is the exclusive distributor of Kelly-Moore [chain!] paint, so much so that it’s called, “Kelly-Moore Paint” and that isn’t a problem?

I have at one time had a chance to visit the mother of all chain stores Wal-Mart and I was surprised by what I found there. DEALS! That was over 10 years ago and I’m still wearing the socks that I got for $3 for 6 pairs. In this down turned economy that is “coming back” people need a deal.  Mom and Pop who run the small place on the corner can’t give you that. The corner “convenience” [liquor] store that sells a six pack of budweiser for twice as much as your local grocery store [chain!] can’t really compete and you’ll probably notice that there is a lack of corner “convenience” [liquor] stores starting to show up.

There are things that every one of us need. Socks, underwear, gas, food. I don’t really care if it was hand made by underpaid naked virgins in Guatemala [out sourced!]. I just want it to fit and hold up over time. I don’t want to pay $5 for a handmade cupcake made with 70% cacao when I can get 6 for $3 made with Hershey’s [chain!] dark chocolate.

New York Mayor, Michael Bloomberg made a trip here recently made a trip to San Francisco and our new interim first Asian American Mayor [we’ll just ignore that Daly City beat us to the punch on that, because Filipinos aren’t the same kind of Asian we’re talking about] Ed Lee gave Mr. Bloomberg a Cable Car bell and locally made, organic hot dogs. Hot dogs? I haven’t seen a cow or a pig in San Francisco since I last went to the zoo. What about our locally made Boudin sourdough bread [chain!]? Or our crab? I have never heard one person say, “Damn I want me a San Francisco Hot Dog!” That’s because we’re San Francisco! We aren’t know for our hot dogs. There is the Treasure Island Frank which I can’t find any info on why a big hot dog is associated with Treasure Island, but they are difficult to find nowadays and I doubt that’s what Ed Lee gave Mr. Bloomberg.

I honestly don’t see a problem with chain stores. They bring affordable wares to the masses, employ people, albeit at usually a low wage, but only people willing to take low wages would work at a similar Mom and Pop local business. Daly City is taking away tons of San Francisco dollars because they’ll allow Target and other chain stores that provide deals that you can’t get here in San Francisco, so why not let them go in here and give back to the city that desperately needs the money? Kudos to the Board of Supervisors for loosening the stick up their collective butts for allowing Lowe’s to move into one of the worse parts of town. I never see any of those San Francisco resident employees with a frown on their face.

OK, rant off for now. Time to go back to talking about the things that make San Francisco the greatest place to be. It’s just getting harder to find.

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