July 20, 2015
“Decades ago the tobacco industry tried to fool us into believing that filtered cigarettes were a healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes, and now they’re making the same claims about e-cigarettes. The fact is that they’re using a new delivery system, which is currently addicting the children of California to toxic nicotine.” Sen. Mark Leno
California SB 140 is dead. It died in committee. Long before ever making it to the floor of the Senate for a vote. And Sen. Mark Leno’s response:
A furious Leno told the panel he was walking away from the revised measure “on behalf of the next generation of Californians who will become addicted to nicotine as a result of your vote.”
“I no longer believe in it. None of my sponsors believe in it,” Leno told the committee. “I disassociate myself from it. It’s a very dangerous bill now.”
In other words, he had a temper tantrum.
In spite of the catchy name (sounds like the name for a new SpaceX rocket), SB 2X-5 is almost identical to the deceased SB 140. How did that come about?
This bill has been added to the agenda for a “special session” of the California legislature. What’s a “special session”?
Article 4 of the California Constitution allows the Governor of the state to call a special session. The legislature has the power to legislate only on subjects defined in the Governor’s proclamation. The current “special session on health” was convened earlier this month.
Governor Jerry Brown ordered the special session to address two problems:
- California’s 50,000 miles of highways and 13,000 state-owned bridges need some repair work. $59 billion dollars’ worth to be exact.
- California levies a tax on health plans which manage its version of Medicaid – Medi-Cal. Until June 2016. That’s when the federal government regulations are pulling the plug on $1.1 billion a year generated by that tax. It will no longer be allowed.
California has two very big, very high profile problems. Ergo the Governor ordered the special session. Two weeks after the passage of the state budget. Which provided no additional funding. For either problem.
One way or another, California taxes are going up. The Governor knows it. The legislature knows it. Leno knows it. Voila – the perfect opportunity to introduce SB 2X-5. Classify electronic cigarettes as a “tobacco product”, bury the tax increases in with all the other tax increases that are sure to come, everybody wins.
Well not quite everybody. Tax increases are frowned on by the voters. No problem. Taxpayers are naïve. It’s all in the way you spin it. Senator Leno:
“I am inspired by the Legislature’s bold move to prevent tobacco-related diseases, reduce smoking among youth and renew the call for statewide regulations on electronic cigarettes.”
“Decades ago the tobacco industry tried to fool us into believing that filtered cigarettes were a healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes, and now they’re making the same claims about e-cigarettes. The fact is that they’re using a new delivery system, which is currently addicting the children of California to toxic nicotine.”
What’s Different about a Special Session?
Leno is banking on some key differences between a regular legislative session and a special session.
SB 140 died in committee. More specifically, the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee. One that is dominated by members who are friendly to business interests. And half of the committee’s members reportedly received more than $185,000 in campaign contributions from – Big Tobacco.
For the special session, different committees will consider the new bills (there are six tobacco/e-cigarette related bills in total). The Assembly Governmental Organization Committee will be bypassed entirely.
In addition to that, an identical bill has been simultaneously introduced to the Assembly (the lower house of the California legislature). That should make passage of one or both bills more likely.
Will It Work?
Cloak it under reducing tobacco-related diseases (none of which have ever been documented as the result of vaping). Mix in the tried and true reducing youth smoking rates (which are at historic lows and falling faster than ever previously recorded). Sprinkle in e-cigarettes as a new way to addict California children to nicotine (in the absence of even a single study showing that to be the case). And tie it all up with a nice, neat ribbon – electronic cigarettes are nothing more than another evil plot by the hated Big Tobacco!
It’s not about public health. It’s not about disease reduction. It’s not about science. It’s not about youth.
It’s about POLITICS. It’s about DECEPTION. It’s about SPIN. But most of all, it’s about MONEY.
And yeah, it just might work.
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Dave Coggin has a Master’s Degree in business and spent 35 years in corporate America. He is a co-founder and partner in DIYELS. He has spent the last five years actively researching and following the evolution of the e-cigarette industry. He is a strong proponent of e-cigarettes as the most promising option currently known for tobacco harm reduction. He may be contacted directly at firstname.lastname@example.org .
The opinions presented here are exclusively those of the author. Vaper’s Vortex is offered as a service to our customers and followers. Anyone considering e-cigarettes as an alternative to tobacco cigarettes should seek qualified advice from a medical professional.