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San Francisco To Become First U.S. City to Ban E-cigarettes

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  • San Francisco’s board of supervisors voted to ban the sale and distribution of e-cigarettes in the city, unless they have been premarket approved by the FDA.
  • The FDA does not currently regulate any e-cigarettes on the market, which has been a source of frustration for many who are concerned by the rise in e-cig use among teens. 
  • City officials say this ordinance was created to prevent teens from using the products.
  • However, Juul, the biggest e-cigarette producer in the nation, says the legislation will only hurt adult users who could now turn back to traditional cigarettes. 

Board Of Supervisors Vote on Ordinance

San Francisco is poised to be the first U.S. city to ban electronic cigarettes. 

On Tuesday, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted in favor of an ordinance that bans the sale and distribution of the product in the city, unless it has been premarket reviewed and approved by the FDA. Currently, no products of this kind have been. 

The ordinance would also ban products from being shipped to an address in San Francisco through online orders.

The ordinance will now head next to Mayor London Breed, who is expected to sign it. Breed released a statement following the vote saying she believes this will benefit the health of young people in the city.

“There is so much we don’t know about the health impacts of these products, but we do know that e-cigarette companies are targeting our kids in their advertising and getting them hooked on addictive nicotine products,” Breed said. “We need to take action to protect the health of San Francisco’s youth and prevent the next generation of San Franciscans from becoming addicted to these products.”

Problems with FDA Regulation

Under the Tobacco Control Act, the FDA should have a role in reviewing e-cigarettes. The ordinance says that all new nicotine products, specifically those that entered the market after 2007, “must be authorized by the FDA for sale in the United States before it may enter the marketplace.”

“Virtually all electronic cigarettes that are sold today entered the market after 2007, but have not been reviewed by the FDA to determine if they are appropriate for the public health,” the ordinance continues. 

San Fransisco City Attorney, Dennis Herrera, also released a statement on Tuesday about the vote, saying that San Francisco is taking action because the FDA has not.

“E-cigarettes are a product that, by law, are not allowed on the market without FDA review,” he said. “For some reason, the FDA has so far refused to follow the law. If the federal government is not going to act, San Francisco will.”

Currently, the FDA does have a plan to conduct reviews for these products. According to their site, e-cigarettes must be submitted for review by August 8, 2022. However, San Fransisco officials do not want to wait that long. 

In the ordinance, officials wrote that the products will have been on the market for 15 years by that point. Between now and 2022, they estimate that six million more youths will have used e-cigarettes. 

“San Francisco is not content to wait until then before addressing, for its residents, what appears from the evidence to be a major public health crisis that is going unattended,” the ordinance says. 

The city of San Francisco is not alone in expressing frustrations with the FDA when it comes to their regulation of nicotine products and e-cigarettes. Several health organizations sued the FDA, saying that their inaction has lead to increased use of vaping products among teens.

In May, a federal judge sided with those organizations and said that the FDA needs to review e-cigarettes. 

Youth and E-Cigarette Use

According to the CDC, one in five high school students uses e-cigarettes, while one in twenty middle schoolers use the product. 

E-cigarette use in highschoolers increased from 1.5 percent in 2011 to 20.8 percent in 2018. The CDC also says that teens often become dependant on nicotine at a quicker rate than adults. 

Criticism of Ordinance

San Fransisco’s ordinance has received criticism. Juul, the leader in the e-cigarette industry in the U.S., is based in San Fransisco. Their spokesperson Ted Kwong released a media statement saying that this decision could cause problems for adult users. 

“This full prohibition will drive former adult smokers who successfully switched to vapor products back to deadly cigarettes, deny the opportunity to switch for current adult smokers, and create a thriving black market instead of addressing the actual causes of underage access and use,” the statement said. 

According to CNN, Juul supports stricter regulation, but not prohibition. The company says they want to include electronic age verification technology and limit how much can be purchased at once.

They are not the only critics. Dr. Steven A. Schroeder, a health professor at the University of California, San Francisco, told the New York Times he does not think the law makes sense.

“On the face of it, it’s ludicrous that we would ban e-cigarettes, but permit the sale of tobacco and cannabis.” he said. “It’s really smart politics but dubious public health.”

The ordinance will not become an effective policy until 30 days after the mayor signs it. After that, it has six months to be fully implemented. 

See what others are saying: (CNN) (Esquire) (New York Times)

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SAT Drops Subject Tests and Optional Essay Section

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  • The College Board will discontinue SAT subject tests effective immediately and will scrap the optional essay section in June. 
  • The organization cited the coronavirus pandemic as part of the reason for accelerating these changes.
  • Regarding subject tests, the College Board said the other half of the decision rested on the fact that Advanced Placement tests are now more accessible to low-income students and students of color, making subject tests unnecessary. 
  • It also said it plans to launch a digital version of the SAT in the near future, despite failing to implement such a plan last year after a previous announcement.

College Board Ends Subject Tests and Optional Essay

College Board announced Tuesday that it will scrap the SAT’s optional essay section, as well as subject tests.

Officials at the organization cited the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the reason for these changes, saying is has “accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to simplify our work and reduce demands on students.”

The decision was also made in part because Advanced Placement tests, which College Board also administers, are now available to more low-income students and students of color. Thus, College Board has said this makes SAT subject tests unnecessary. 

While subject tests will be phased out for international students, they have been discontinued effective immediately in the U.S. 

Regarding the optional essay, College Board said high school students are now able to express their writing skills in a variety of ways, a factor which has made the essay section less necessary.

With several exceptions, it will be discontinued in June.

The Board Will Implement an Online SAT Test

In its announcement, College Board also said it plans to launch a revised version of the SAT that’s aimed at making it “more flexible” and “streamlined” for students to take the test online.

In April 2020, College Board announced it would be launching a digital SAT test in the fall if schools didn’t reopen. The College Board then backtracked on its plans for a digital test in June, before many schools even decided they would remain closed.

According to College Board, technological challenges led to the decision to postpone that plan.

For now, no other details about the current plan have been released, though more are expected to be revealed in April. 

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (The New York Times)

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Biden To Block Trump’s Order Lifting COVID-19 Travel Ban

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  • President Trump issued an executive order Monday lifting a ban on travelers from the Schengen area of Europe, the U.K., Ireland, and Brazil. 
  • Trump said the policy will no longer be needed starting Jan. 26, when the CDC will start requiring all passengers from abroad to present proof of a negative coronavirus test before boarding a flight.
  • The move was cheered by the travel industry; however, incoming White House press secretary Jennifer Psaki warned that Biden’s administration does not intend to lift the travel restrictions. 

Trump Order End To COVID-19 Travel Ban

President Donald Trump issued an executive order Monday ending his administration’s ban on travelers from the Schengen area of Europe, the U.K., Ireland, and Brazil.

That ban was put in place last spring in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus in the U.S. In his announcement, however, Trump said the policy will no longer be needed starting Jan. 26, when new rules from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention go into effect.

Starting that day, the CDC will require all passengers from abroad to present proof of a negative coronavirus test before boarding a flight.

The recommendation to lift the ban reportedly came from Alex Azar, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services. According to Trump’s proclamation, “the Secretary reports high confidence that these jurisdictions will cooperate with the United States in the implementation of CDC’s January 12, 2021, order and that tests administered there will yield accurate results.”

It’s worth noting that the ban will stay in place for travelers from Iran and China. Still, Trump’s announcement was generally cheered by members of the travel industry who have been pushing to lift the ban and require preflight testing instead. 

Biden To Block Trump’s Order

Soon after the news broke, the incoming White House press secretary for President-elect Joe Biden, Jennifer Psaki, warned that Biden would block Trump’s order.

“With the pandemic worsening, and more contagious variants emerging around the world, this is not the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel,” she wrote on Twitter.

“On the advice of our medical team, the Administration does not intend to lift these restrictions on 1/26.  In fact, we plan to strengthen public health measures around international travel in order to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” she added.

With that, it seems unlikely that Trump’s order will actually take effect. 

It’s also worth noting that this is one of many executive orders Trump has issued just before inauguration day.

Source: Whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions

Some of these orders could soon be overturned once Biden takes office Wednesday. Biden is also expected to roll out his own wave of executive orders in his first 10 days as president.

See what others are saying: (The Wall Street Journal) (The New York Times) (CNN)

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New COVID-19 Variant Could Become Dominant in the U.S. by March, CDC Warns

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  • The CDC warned Friday that a new highly transmissible COVID-19 variant could become the predominant variant in the United States by March.
  • The strain was first reported in the United Kingdom in December and is now in at least 10 states.
  • The CDC used a modeled trajectory to discover how quickly the variant could spread in the U.S. and said that this could threaten the country’s already overwhelmed healthcare system.

CDC Issues Warning

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Friday that the new COVID-19 variant could become the predominant variant in the United States by March.

While it is not known to be more deadly, it does spread at a higher rate, which is troubling considering the condition the U.S. is already in. Cases and deaths are already on the rise in nearly every state and globally, 2 million lives have been lost to the coronavirus. 

The variant was first reported in the United Kingdom in mid-December. It is now in 30 countries, including the U.S., where cases have been located in at least ten states. Right now, only 76 cases of this variant have been confirmed in the U.S., but experts believe that number is likely much higher and said it will increase significantly in the coming weeks. It is already a dominant strain in parts of the U.K.

Modeled trajectory shows that growth in the U.S. could be so fast that it dominates U.S. cases just three months into the new year. This could pose a huge threat to our already strained healthcare system.

Mitigating Spread of Variant

“I want to stress that we are deeply concerned that this strain is more transmissible and can accelerate outbreaks in the U.S. in the coming weeks,” said Dr. Jay Butler, deputy director for infectious diseases at the CDC told the New York Times. “We’re sounding the alarm and urging people to realize the pandemic is not over and in no way is it time to throw in the towel.”

The CDC advises that health officials use this time to limit spread and increase vaccination as much as possible in order to mitigate the impact this variant will have. Experts believe that current vaccines will protect against this strain.

“Effective public health measures, including vaccination, physical distancing, use of masks, hand hygiene, and isolation and quarantine, will be essential,” the CDC said in their report.

“Strategic testing of persons without symptoms but at higher risk of infection, such as those exposed to SARS-CoV-2 or who have frequent unavoidable contact with the public, provides another opportunity to limit ongoing spread.”

See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (New York Times) (NBC News)

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