Monthly Archives: July 2014

2014-07-22 P-D: “No e-cigarettes for minors in Chesterfield after council vote”

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I wasn’t aware of this step being considered by Chesterfield City Council. It should not detract from the need for FDA oversight of e-cigarettes and of their being treated cautiously, even if they hold out the prospect of a safer means of delivering nicotine than regular cigarettes.

I gave some of my reasons for supporting a veto of Senate Bill 841 relating to this issue in a Letter to the Editor, published June 29: “Don’t let industry set e-cigarette laws.

No e-cigarettes for minors in Chesterfield after council vote
• By Tara Kulash tkulash@post-dispatch.com 314-340-81145

CHESTERFIELD • Chesterfield joined a growing list of municipalities Monday that are preventing the sale of vapor nicotine products to minors, taking action one week after a potential statewide ban was vetoed by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon.
         The City Council voted 6-1 Monday night in favor of an ordinance that would prohibit the sale and possession of vapor products to those under 18.

Council member Barry Flaschbart

Council member
Barry Flaschbart

“These e-cigarettes should not be for sale to kids — I’ve gotten a complaint from a neighbor whose teenage kids were solicited to buy them in a store,” said council member Barry Flachsbart, who voted for the measure.
         Vapor products are electronic devices with liquid nicotine that claim to lack the carcinogens found in tobacco. Usually called e-cigarettes, the products produce a vapor instead of smoke.
         Many supporters of the product argue that e-cigarettes are less harmful than cigarettes and often help users to quit tobacco use.
         But the industry is largely unregulated at the federal level and may appear safer than it actually is.
         Dr. Anthony Scalzo, professor of pediatrics and director of toxicology at St. Louis University, called it “intuitive” to prohibit minors from the product.
         “The whole process of inhaling nicotine through this electronic thing, it eliminates toxins — yes, that’s the good part,” he said. “The bad thing is it’s still nicotine.”
         Scalzo said because the vapor lacks an offensive odor and lasts much longer than a cigarette, it encourages users to smoke it for longer periods of time and in public. This leads to a higher dose of nicotine over time and can lead to a stronger addiction, especially in children whose brains aren’t fully developed.
         He also said it’s worrisome that there may be contaminants in the vapors that the public is not aware of yet.
         And it’s especially concerning for children, Scalzo said, because it appears the companies are targeting them with flavors.
         “What 45-year-old guy that goes to the casino and is smoking wants bubblegum flavored? It’s appealing to the youth,” he said. “Let’s cut to the chase.”
         Parents in Chesterfield became aware of the threat and began making complaints to the city, said councilwoman Nancy Greenwood.
         Council member Bruce DeGroot cast the lone vote against the measure Monday.
         “This is too much government intervention,” DeGroot said. “Nobody has proven to me (e-cigarettes) are harmful to health in any way. Government powers should be used sparingly.”
         Several local vapor shops support the ordinance.
         Luke Ottinger, a co-owner of Arch City Vapors in the Chesterfield Four Seasons Shopping Plaza, said his shop does not sell to minors, nor does it allow parents to purchase the products for their children.
         He acknowledged one isolated incident, though, in which an employee sold a vapor product to a minor.
         The employee, he said, was fired.
         “We don’t even give warnings for that,” Ottinger said. “As far as we’re concerned, that’s not acceptable.”
         At Dorsett Vapor in Chesterfield, there’s a sign on the door notifying patrons that no one under 18 is allowed without a guardian.
         Store manager Dakota Rhoads said his shop also turns away adult customers who say they are buying the vapor products for their children.
         He said it would feel morally wrong to provide e-cigarettes to minors. “Getting them hooked at an early age is not something that we would want to do,” Rhoads said.
         Chesterfield is not the first in its ordinance. Ray Johnson, chief of the Chesterfield police, said Ellisville and Eureka have similar ordinances. Illinois also banned the sale to minors.
         Missouri legislators sent a bill to Nixon in May that would prohibit the sale to children. It would also prevent the product from being regulated as tobacco, but it allowed for changes to be made to the law if product risks were made known in the future.
         In April, the Federal Drug Administration released proposed guidelines that would prohibit the sale of vapor products to minors and require label warnings that nicotine is an addictive chemical, among other rules.
         On July 14, Nixon vetoed the Missouri legislation, arguing that the bill didn’t go far enough. He said it favored the tobacco industry because it exempted vapor products from the laws and taxes on traditional tobacco cigarettes.
         The next day, the American Vaping Association called for the Missouri Legislature to override the governor’s veto, calling Nixon “out of step with the rest of the nation” in a press release.
         More than 40 states have banned the sale of vapor products to minors.
         In the case of Chesterfield, police chief Johnson said after receiving complaint from a resident, he took the issue to the Public Health and Safety Committee, which then recommended the ordinance to the council.
         Johnson said the ordinance is not targeting any particular vapor shop.
         “We’re seeing more and more pop up around the metro area, so we’re just trying to get out ahead of this thing,” he said.

Mary Shapiro, Post-Dispatch special correspondent, contributed to this report.

2014-07-13 P-D: “Sherpa: Move to ban smoking in military needs snuffing”

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St. Louis Post-Dispatch Metro reporter, Joe Holleman, also writes the Sunday “Life Sherpa” column and his latest is worth reproducing. It reflects one point of view and has some resonance, in that when you’re serving on active duty in a war zone, smoking cigarettes may not seem like your biggest concern. However, promoting cigarette smoking, even among military personnel, no longer makes any sense, if it ever did.

Maybe it seemed like a good idea during trench warfare when there were evidently long bouts of tedium separating over-the-top suicide charges towards enemy lines protected by barbed wire and machine guns. Promoting smoking in the military was certainly a wonderful boost to tobacco manufacturers, and resulted in a sudden large return of addicted demobilized military personnel in 1918.

However, to quote a well-known cigarette sales pitch, since then “We’ve come a long way baby.” That is, except for those steadfastly closing their eyes to reality and what we’ve learned about the addictiveness of cigarettes, and the disease and premature death they cause. (Not to mention the similar effects and air pollution caused by secondhand smoke.)

In fact, a legislator whom Holleman dismisses, U.S. Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, is a hero to me. As a Congressman, Durbin worked with the late U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) to pass the very first limitation on smoking in airplanes, requiring flights of two hours or less to be smoke-free – which eventually led to smoke-free flights to and from the U.S. At the time this was (and remains) an incredible victory, given the tobacco industry’s influence then and now in the Congress. (This noteworthy effort deserves a separate blog.)

Joe Holleman is living in the past, and evidently a great ally of one of the most duplicitous industries of our time: Big Tobacco.

Please note: I’ve shortened the article’s introduction.

Joe Holleman  Metro reporter

Joe Holleman, Metro reporter

Sherpa: Move to ban smoking in military needs snuffing
July 12, 2014 12:15 am • By Joe Holleman jholleman@post-dispatch.com 314-340-825450

When listening to sports radio, especially when the subject of evaluating a player’s talent arises, you might hear the phrase “eye test.” …. This simply means, after all the numbers have been crunched, what does a player look like? ….
         That’s why I propose that all legislators, and the executive branch for that matter, adopt the “ear test” as soon as possible. It would work like this:
         When proposing legislation, it shall be required that each representative read — out loud — what the bill will actually do. Forget the statistics for a moment and just see what reaction the words trigger in your brain.
         For if the ear test rule were in place, then Congress would not have recently discussed limiting or prohibiting military personnel from smoking cigarettes.
         My kingdom for an ear test, and mine would sound something like this:
         “Should the U.S. — while asking our military to face enemy guns, bombs and missiles; fly dangerous missions in airplanes and helicopters under fire; and endure nerve-wracking terror, tension and boredom in hostile locales — tell soldiers, sailors and pilots that they can’t smoke ’em, even if they got ’em?”

mogasp comment: Some fire departments have hired only non-smoking firefighters for what is also a dangerous job. To be eligible for disability due to job-related smoke inhalation it makes no sense to simultaneously permit cigarette smoking. While this is not exactly analogous, promoting the highest level of physical fitness among military personnel still makes sense.

         Many cigarette-haters will trumpet this move as a giant step in the right direction and point to the illnesses and deaths cigarettes cause.
         To be sure, I don’t disagree with those medical facts. I know personally of the damage that cigarettes cause. My father, a smoker for many years, died of lung cancer. Realizing the danger, I managed to kick that nasty habit 11 years ago, and I have no plans to put that monkey back on my back.
         Then again, I’ve been able to avoid those pesky “someone is trying to kill me with rocket-propelled grenades” stress levels.
         Heck, the worst fire I ever draw are snarky letters from soccer sycophants and animal activists. Sorry to disappoint, but those missives aren’t enough to push me back into the warm and smoky arms of Miss Winston Light.
         To no one’s surprise, I hope, this military-tobacco issue has even been the subject of a government study. One fact they managed to uncover is that smoking is higher among those who are likely to face enemy fire. (Didn’t see that one coming, did you?)

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin

         But isn’t it par for the course that our elected leaders would spend time discussing this issue? One U.S. senator, Illinois Democrat Richard Durbin, even questioned whether the military should be offering tobacco discounts.
         Durbin said, “We spend $1.6 billion a year on medical care of service members from tobacco-related diseases and loss of work.”
         Pardon me, but the pressing question about military health care is not how much we spend, but how well we spend it. Recent reports about deficiencies at Veterans Administration hospitals seem to indicate that the answer is “abysmally.”
         Thankfully, one U.S. congressman spotted the emperor jogging naked around the Capitol rotunda.
Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-CA)

Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-CA)

         Duncan Hunter, a Republican from California, got the House to prohibit placing new restrictions on legal products for the military.
         I’d like to think that Hunter — a Marine Reserve major who did three combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan — won this battle by providing his own ear test, saying:
         “We sleep in the dirt for this country. We get shot at for this country. But we can’t have a cigarette if we want to for this country, because that’s unhealthy.”
         And on that note, the common-sense lamp was lit.
         

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