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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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Medical Workers Sign Letter Urging Spotify to Combat Misinformation, Citing Joe Rogan

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The letter accused Spotify of “enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research.”


Doctors and Medical Professionals Sign Letter to Spotify

A group of 270 doctors, scientists, and other medical workers signed an open letter to Spotify this week urging the audio platform to implement a misinformation policy, specifically citing false claims made on the “Joe Rogan Experience” podcast. 

Rogan has faced no shortage of backlash over the last year for promoting vaccine misinformation on his show, which airs exclusively on Spotify. Most recently, he invited Dr. Robert Malone on a Dec. 31 episode that has since been widely criticized by health experts. 

Dr. Malone was banned from Twitter for promoting COVID-19 misinformation. According to the medical experts who signed the letter, he “used the JRE platform to further promote numerous baseless claims, including several falsehoods about COVID-19 vaccines and an unfounded theory that societal leaders have ‘hypnotized’ the public.”

“Notably, Dr. Malone is one of two recent JRE guests who has compared pandemic policies to the Holocaust,” the letter continued. “These actions are not only objectionable and offensive, but also medically and culturally dangerous.”

Joe Rogan’s History of COVID-19 Misinformation

Rogan sparked swift criticism himself in the spring of 2021 when he discouraged young people from taking the COVID-19 vaccine. He also falsely equated mRNA vaccines to “gene therapy” and incorrectly stated that vaccines cause super mutations of the virus. He took ivermectin after testing positive for the virus in September, despite the fact that the drug is not approved as a treatment for COVID.

“By allowing the propagation of false and societally harmful assertions, Spotify is enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research and sow doubt in the credibility of data-driven guidance offered by medical professionals,” the doctors and medical workers wrote. 

“We are calling on Spotify to take action against the mass-misinformation events which continue to occur on its platform,” they continued. “With an estimated 11 million listeners per episode, JRE is the world’s largest podcast and has tremendous influence. Though Spotify has a responsibility to mitigate the spread of misinformation on its platform, the company presently has no misinformation policy.”

Rolling Stone was the first outlet to report on the letter from the medical professionals. Dr. Katrine Wallace, an epidemiologist at the University of Illinois Chicago, was among the signees. She told the magazine that Rogan is “a menace to public health.”

“These are fringe ideas not backed in science, and having it on a huge platform makes it seem there are two sides to this issue,” she said. “And there are really not.”

Spotify had not responded to the letter as of Thursday.

See what others are saying: (Rolling Stone) (Deadline) (Insider)

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Data Shows Omicron May be Peaking in the U.S.

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In some cities that were first hit by the surge, new cases are starting to flatten and decline.


New Cases Flattening

After weeks of recording-breaking cases driven by the highly infectious omicron variant, public health officials say that new COVID infections seem to be slowing in the parts of the country that were hit the hardest earlier on.

Following a more than twentyfold rise in December, cases in New York City have flattened out in recent days. 

New infections have even begun to fall slightly in some states, like Maryland and New Jersey. In Boston, the levels of COVID in wastewater — which has been a top indicator of case trends in the past — have dropped by nearly 40% since the first of the year.

Overall, federal data has shown a steep decline in COVID-related emergency room visits in the Northeast, and the rest of the country appears to be following a similar track.

Data from other countries signals the potential for a steep decline in cases following the swift and unprecedented surge.

According to figures from South Africa, where the variant was first detected, cases rose at an incredibly shocking rate for about a month but peaked quickly in mid-December. Since then, new infections have plummeted by around 70%.

In the U.K., which has typically been a map for how U.S. cases will trend, infections are also beginning to fall after peaking around New Year’s and then flattening for about a week.

Concerns Remain 

Despite these recent trends, experts say it is still too early to say if cases in the U.S. will decline as rapidly as they did in South Africa and the parts of the U.K. that were first hit. 

While new infections may seem to be peaking in the cities that saw the first surges, caseloads continue to climb in most parts of the country. 

Meanwhile, hospitals are overwhelmed and health resources are still strained because of the high volume of cases hitting all at once.

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

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COVID-Driven School Closures Top Record Highs, But Many Remain Open

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While some districts have implemented protective measures, many teachers say they fall short.


Schools Respond to Omicron Surge

U.S. COVID cases, driven by the omicron variant, are continuously topping new record highs, posing difficult questions for schools resuming after winter break.

According to Burbio, a data firm that tracks school closures, at least 5,409 public schools canceled classes or moved to remote learning by the end of last week due to COVID — more than triple the number at the end of December.

That is still only a fraction of the nation’s 130,000 schools, and many of the biggest school districts in the country are still insisting that students come into the classroom.

Los Angeles, which is home to the second-biggest district, is requiring that students at least test negative before they return to school this week.

In the biggest district of New York City, classes have already resumed following winter break. Although the city has said it will double random tests and send home more kits, students were not required to provide negative results.

Teachers Protest In-Person Learning

Teachers in other major districts have protested the local government’s decisions to stay open.

One of the most closely watched battles is in Chicago, where students on Monday missed their fourth consecutive day of school due to a feud between the Chicago Teachers Union and Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D).

Last week, the union voted to return to remote learning in defiance of a city-wide order mandating they teach in-person, citing inadequate COVID-19 protections. Lightfoot claimed the conditions were fine and that students were safe, despite record surges, instead opting to cancel classes altogether while the fight plays out.

On Sunday, the union said it was “still far apart” from making any kind of agreement with public school officials after Lightfoot rejected their demands.

Lightfoot, for her part, has said she remains “hopeful” a deal could be reached, but she also stirred up the union by accusing teachers of staging an “illegal walkout” and claiming they “abandoned their posts and they abandoned kids and their families.”

Meanwhile, teachers in other school districts have begun to emulate the tactics in Chicago.

On Friday, teachers in Oakland, California staged a “sick-out,” promoting 12 schools serving thousands of students to close.

See what others are saying: (The Chicago Tribune) (CNN) (The New York Times)

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