SAN FRANCISCO SUPERVISORS SELL OUT
How ironic that on the 50th Anniversary of the Love Summer, San Francisco’s elected officials slammed shut the door to freedom of choice. After a hearing before an overflow crowd, a Committee of the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to recommend passage of the ordinance banning the sale of flavored e-liquid for vaping devices.
Mark Block, founder and CEO of Electronic Vaping Coalition of America, testified as he had in Costa Cosa the day before. That County Board delayed action to have staff clear up vagueness. Block pointed out that vaping does provide the effective way to get off cigarettes, and that passage of this Ordinance violates the Fourteenth Amendment that guarantees equal and fair treatment.
Today Block heads for southern California where maybe saner heads will prevail and separate the vaping from smoking.
What the action in San Francisco means is that people who choose to get off cigarettes and save their health and lives are out of luck in the city which was once the epitomy of freedom. Evidence is overwhelming that if flavoring is banned, the vape shops will either go out of business or lose so much business that they will close eventually. Evidence is also overwhelming that vapers will not stay with the product if there is no flavoring—-and many will drift back to the slow death that comes from smoking cigarettes. Sad but true.
And what is really sad about it is that it comes in the city that has been the beacon for free thinking alternative life styles and ways of life for at least a hundred years. Just fifty years ago, the Love Summer marveled all of America. Scott McKenzie’s song “San Francisco (Be sure to wear flowers in your hair) became a major hit; it was written by John Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas. Haight Asbury bands like the Grateful Dead, Big Brother and the Holding Company, and Jefferson Airplane rose to the top of the charts. Janis Joplin lived near the intersection of Haight and Asbury streets and became a household name whether the house held “hippies” or not.
Long after the Love Summer ended, the Haight turned out some of the most colorful comedians such as Robin Williams, Whoopi Goldberg, and Dana Carvey. The stars of alternative ideas and thoughts and ways of life came from this Golden City; it was a city that the rest of us in America envied—often because we did not have the nerve to live life as it was lived in San Francisco.
The spirits of those that turned the Castro into the beginning of a free-wheeling, free thinking Baghdad of the Bay must be turning in their resting places. The legacy of mayors Alioto, Mosconi, Brown, Agnos called for better than what the committee did. Those men had the spirit to open doors to minorities and women to jobs and promotions so that San Francisco became the “liberal leader” of America. When Dianne Feinstein is the most conservative mayor in a span of thirty years, you know how liberal was this city even if you didn’t follow it.
Mosconi saved the Giants from moving to Toronto and if nothing else he had done, that fact alone would have made him beloved to Giants fans everywhere. He was a revolutionary mayor who appointed large numbers of women, gay men, lesbians and racial minorities to city commissions and advisory boards. He also was the first to agree that a court enter a judgment ending discriminatory recruiting practices by the police department, a first big such move in the nation. He supported an occupation sit-in of the Federal Building by 100 disabled people demanding their civil rights; while the feds wanted to starve them out, Mosconi took in portable showers and towels and food. The sit-in got results, and eventually is credited with passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Alioto, Agnos, and Brown all championed in one way or another finding suitable facilities for the homeless while other cities continued to shunt them from place to place. All endured strikes from city and county personnel and found a way to mediate them and get better benefits for them, including coverage of domestic partners for health benefits. All continued and furthered the hiring and promotion of all nationalities, sexual preferences and races—to the point where San Francisco was the melting pot model for all America.
Free speech, free living, free choices of alternatives—this was San Francisco. Writers have portrayed the San Francisco scene as the freest there was in the counter culture of the 60s for example, providing the natural spot for nurturing all differing interpretations of the American Dream
As an inhabitant of Boise, Idaho, and even having had experiences in Chicago and Baltimore, San Francisco was my ideal as an American experience. Whenever I could, I read Herb Caen of the Chronicle (and I still read Wilie Brown’s column) and listened to KGO at night—I remember Caen’s coverage off and on of the legendary Magnolia Thunderpussy, a San Francisco native and burlesque queen who has been described as “something of a cross between a den mother to San Francisco weirdos and a proto-Bette Midler”. Her place at 1398 Haight Street was legendary; featured briefly in the Jack Nicholson movie Psyche Out, you can be sure it could have been a vape shop had vaping even been in existence.
At stake yesterday was the freedom of choice of people who want to escape the dregs of cigarette smoking with the use of e-liquid and vaping devices. The Committee took away that freedom—-in a city whose entire history is built on free thinking, free wheeling, live and let live openness.
It has been proven that cigarette smoking is addictive to large parts of diverse minority populations. Vaping would offer an effective, safe escape for the diverse populations of the Mission District, Bernal Heights, Potrero Hill, the Castro, the Excelsior District, the Sunset District, the Richmond, Chinatown, and Forest Hill. But neither they nor anyone else in the city/county can buy flavored e-liquid after the Ordinance is passed finally.
Sad that here in this beautiful city of freedom, the axe of arbitrary, autocratic political dictatorship fell today. And why? Money is the answer—money from the big tobacco settlement by which the big companies managed to buy their way out of huge tort cases in which people dying from tobacco exposure were cashiered out, and those not yet in court torn from their claims by a monetary settlement.
Tragic also are the excuses given for passage of the Ordinance. Supervisor Cohen who is sponsor of the ordinance represents a huge African American population in Bayview_Hunters Point, said that she was driven by her experience with family members who smoked menthol cigarettes and died of cancer. But, Supervisor Cohen, no one has died of cancer from vaping; it provides the only effective, safe way for people to kick the cigarette habit. With your experiences you should be welcoming vaping, and the flavoring that makes it successful as an alternative to smoking cigarettes and death.
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee endorsed the proposal. “We know from research and studies that tobacco-related diseases continue to be the No. 1 cause of preventable deaths, especially among low-income and minority communities,” he said. But again, vaping is the answer to these statistics because it gets people OFF CIGARETTES.
Those elected officials who profess to protect the cause of minorities and low-income folks should be lining up to back vaping, because it is the soul and life saver of all those folks who want to get off the cigarette road to death. One would think that in this city of ideas the elected officials would have done some research. The Trustees of the small Village of Hartland, Wisconsin did their homework, and learned of the great health value of vaping to all those who want to avoid poor health and death from cigarettes. The elected Supervisors of San Francisco would do well to read their Findings and Conclusions. One might be surprised to know that a Village in mid Wisconsin is more enlightened today than the venerable Supervisors of San Francisco.
And, as to the statements by Supervisor Cohen and Mayor Lee, trying to pass off vaping as the same as cigarettes, in the colorful words of that venerable veteran of politics Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland “Oh come onnnn now! Y’all know better.”
The reason lies not with the merits of the ordinance as applied to vaping; the reason is that California, like all other states, is addicted to money from the tobacco settlement—it has used that money as the constant staple for appropriations for annual budgets. And the cities know that their money interests are at stake if they buck the tide that runs out of Sacramento.
450,000 lives lost every year from tobacco causes don’t seem to matter to local officials—perhaps it would be therapeutic for the Supervisors to get the opportunity to meet with relatives of this year’s deaths and explain to them why they are so adamant about closing down the opportunity to escape death at the hands of cigarettes.
As vaping sales go up, tobacco sales go down. And, since most local officials are not as up to date as are their constituents, they haven’t yet seen the tax benefits of vaping—particularly when measured against medical and health costs from cigarette smoking. If the vaping business goes under, a tremendous tax revenue will be lost to the cities. Once that has happened, there will be council people and supervisors and trustees all over the land wringing their hands, crying out “who did this to us”.
“Oh come onnnnn now!”