Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Suck On This

Two months after the Obama administration, in a cave to Big Tobacco, weakened its own proposed rules on the sales and advertising of e-cigarettes, the World Health Organization is now urging a complete about-face.

"Vaping" is dangerous:
(Reuters) - The World Health Organization (WHO) stepped up its war on "Big Tobacco" on Tuesday, calling for stiff regulation of electronic cigarettes as well as bans on indoor use, advertising and sales to minors.

In a long-awaited report that will be debated by member states at a meeting in October in Moscow, the United Nations health agency also voiced concern at the concentration of the $3 billion market in the hands of transnational tobacco companies.
The WHO launched a public health campaign against tobacco a decade ago, clinching the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Since entering into force in 2005, it has been ratified by 179 states but the United States has not joined it.
It's no big surprise that the United States has refused to help control tobacco in other parts of the world. The Obama administration and those before it have been such a friend to Big Tobacco that there is even a clause in the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership  that would supersede any anti-smoking legislation now in place in partner countries. The tobacco industry would be allowed to hook millions of children in Indonesia and other impoverished countries on their poisonous product.

Malaysia, for example, already has an epidemic of pediatric smokers on its hands. And, with an estimated 60% of the adult population already addicted to tobacco, the problem will only get worse. From Politico: 
When Malaysia’s trade negotiators have pushed a carve-out for tobacco in a section of the deal that would otherwise allow businesses to challenge whether a country’s laws and regulations meet its international trade obligations before an independent panel, the United States has balked and instead called for an approach that Malaysian officials think would leave their country exposed.
 “The U.S. government’s proposal on tobacco does not go far enough. It is insufficient to protect the government’s sovereignty to do their utmost to protect public health,” said Mary Assunta, a senior policy adviser for the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance. “Tobacco companies should not interfere with this, nor challenge governments using the free-trade platform.”
Even after Obama visited Malaysia this spring and saw the smoking epidemic for himself, the clause favoring the unrestricted predation of the tobacco industry reportedly remains in the proposed treaty. One famous Indonesian toddler was able to kick his two pack a day habit, but there are plenty more potential addicts where he came from.

And why not? The White House has even adamantly refused to protect the migrant children who, cynically exempt from our own domestic child labor laws, slave away in the killing fields of Big Tobacco and thus are vulnerable to nicotine poisoning through their constant handling of the toxic leaves. If a scathing Human Rights Watch report against that child abuse didn't sway Obama, then why should WHO change his mind on vaping? Not even lobbying by Michael Bloomberg, one of the world's richest plutocrats, has been able to stop the stampede of this powerful industry of death.

Children Laboring in Tobacco Field

It really shouldn't shock anyone that preventing even precious American children from ordering bubblegum and chocolate-flavored nicotine poison on the Internet or being forced to watch the ads on TV is not on Obama's to-do list.  It was his former budget director, Sylvia Mathews-Burwell, who relaxed the FDA's proposed e-cigarette rules to protect minors right before she was confirmed as this country's ironically-named Secretary of Health and Human Services.

The WHO reports that even second-hand "vapor" from e-cigarettes may pose a significant health risk, especially to pregnant women and their developing fetuses. So, it'll be interesting to see if the conservative right-to-lifers in Congress will Just Say No to their tobacco lobbyist pals clamoring for continuing deregulation. Even the sexy e-cig ads sound right-wing, agitating as they do for "freedom." In any event, the propagandists of poison sure have been keeping very busy, photo-shopping the Ayn Rand brand to market to a whole new generation of hip libertarians:

Although the number of teens experimenting with the candy-flavored e-cigarettes has doubled since 2008, the White House has said it wanted more detailed grisly evidence of harmful effects before it "revisits" imposing more stringent control. As in war, there are apparently acceptable levels of collateral damage (injury and death) before an artificial neoliberal red line is crossed. A finite number of emergency room and morgue visits may occur before profits are curtailed.

Here are just some of the dangers:

The vapors in electronic cigarettes contain nano-particles which trigger inflammation, potentially leading to asthma, heart disease and stroke. The vapors may render antibiotics less effective against pulmonary bacterial infections. The solvents in the sweetly-flavored concoctions contain known carcinogens, such as formaldehyde. The adolescent brain is more susceptible to nicotine, which immediately raises the heart rate and blood pressure. Symptoms of withdrawal from "vaping" are the same is from quitting cigarettes: depression and crankiness.

But of course, Big Tobacco has no shortage of "scientists" willing to obfuscate the issue through the construction of straw men. According to Reuters, one group of experts actually opposes an anti-vaping campaign because it might take attention and money away from other anti-smoking efforts. Banning e-cigarette advertising will bring the cancerous Marlboro Man back to life on every billboard in America if we don't let the kids vape at will and resurrect nicotine advertising as a force for good after a 43-year ban! 

Another marketing ploy is to pimp out e-cigarettes as Nicorette gum-like "stop-smoking aids" which are actually beneficial to your health. 

As one Internet sales site brags, they don't stink, they're relatively cheap, they won't set the house on fire if you fall asleep while sucking in bed, the list of health risks is not yet nearly as extensive as decades and decades of studies of the effects of actually lighting up have  shown, and best of all: they are cool. Your friends will not shun you, even if you suck.

As usual, follow the money. Wells Fargo estimates that profits from e-cigarettes will exceed those of regular smokes by the year 2020. World-wide sales reached $3 billion last year. 

The question isn't who is going to let me; it's who is going to stop me. -- Ayn Rand, libertarian goddess, smoker, and lung cancer fatality.


Pearl said...

My letter to the NyTimes editor:

For Yazidis Betrayed by Arab Neighbors, ‘It Will Never Be the Same’

The above article was heartbreaking in today's paper. But, while President Obama sent help to them for their survival, he sent more ammunition and bombs to the Israelis when they were massacring the Palestinians in Gaza - men, women, children -
and still is.

Pearl said...

The above was from Pearl.

Karen Garcia said...

I wonder if Obama is also air-dropping candy flavored e-ciggies to help Big Tobacco's humanitarian outreach effort?

Meredith, NYC said...

btw...i know you mention this, so in case you missed it.

Separate Entryways for New York Condo Buyers and Renters Create an Affordable Housing Dilemma

Karen Garcia said...

Thanks, Meredith. Nice to know that the Times is on it. I love the subtle slant of the article: "we're sorry if you were offended by our Apartheid, but were it not for the diBlasio election, nobody would have ever noticed our intense greed nor played the inequality card."

I guess it could have been worse. They could have assigned Tatiana Schlossberg to write the article. She is Caroline Kennedy's daughter, hired (on a purely merit basis of course) as a summer intern-reporter. She wrote a different story today about a MoMA intern who fell to her death after a night of partying. No word whether it was in an Apartheid luxury condo, however.

voice-in-wilderness said...

Of course President Obama has a history as a tobacco smoker until 2011 and as a marijuana smoker (the Choom Gang) in his youth. Maybe Michelle has him vaping now??

Zee said...

@Karen and @Meredith--

Apartment Apartheid, Part I

Of all the things that one might be agitated about, it seems to me that “apartheid” in luxury New York City apartments/condominiums that offer low cost housing to some NYC residents is among the least of them.

Those who are huffing and puffing about “discrimination” and “apartheid” regarding the “optics” of separate entrances for owners vs. renters at 40 Riverside Boulevard and the Edge Community Apartments—"the affordable housing building that abuts the Edge, a glass condo tower on the Brooklyn waterfront in Williamsburg"—appear to be those New Yorkers who are well-enough off to live pretty much wherever they care to. Or people who live outside of NYC altogether.

A critic of separate entrances cited by the New York Times is Ms. Alicia Glen:

“...Alicia Glen, the deputy mayor for housing and economic development, said that separate front doors were not in keeping with the administration’s principles of equality, and that the city was working to change the rules to prohibit them.

'Walking into a building should not be any different based on income status,' Ms. Glen said in an interview.”


From Ms. Glen's bio:

“ Prior to joining HPD [NYC Dept. of Housing, Preservation and Development] Ms. Glen was an associate attorney at Fulbright & Jaworski and at Kalkines, Arky, Zall & Bernstein.

Most recently, Glen served as the Head of the Urban Investment Group (UIG) at Goldman Sachs, which provides capital to underserved urban communities. Additionally, she was a member of the Diverse Business Engagement Committee, the GSBank USA Management Committee, and co-led the 10,000 Small Businesses initiative. Under her leadership, UIG spurred more than $5 billion of development across dozens of residential, mixed-use and commercial projects, as well as financed job creation and neighborhood revitalization strategies like the $40mm New York Healthy Food and Healthy Communities Fund. In her role at GS, she helped catalyze projects like NYC's Citi Bike, development in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and affordable housing projects in Harlem and across the outer boroughs.

Glen was a 2010 David Rockefeller Fellow and currently serves on the boards of the Fund for NYC Public Schools, Enterprise Community Partners, the Bowery Residents Committee, the Citizens Housing and Planning Council, the NYU Institute for Affordable Housing, and is a Trustee of the Citizens Budget Commission.”
(My bold emphasis.)


“Fulbright & Jaworski LLP, one of the largest law firms in the United States... is the U.S. member of Norton Rose Fulbright, a global legal practice of approximately 3,800 lawyers in more than 50 offices around the world..Founded in Houston in 1919 by R.C. Fulbright, Fulbright & Jaworski LLP has represented clients in the energy and financial industries for more than 75 years and in the healthcare industry for more than 60 years...” (My bold emphasis.)


Zee said...

Apartment Apartheid, Part II

“Kalkines, Arky, Zall & Bernstein LLP was acquired by Manatt, Phelps & Phillips in January 2003. Kalkines, Arky, Zall & Bernstein provides legal advisory services. The company’s practice areas include corporate, finance and tax law; general litigation; real estate and land use law; not-for-profit organizations; employment law; and health care. The company was founded in 1988 and is headquartered in New York City. (My bold emphasis.)


I don't know where Alicia Glen lives in NYC, but I'd be curious to know just how closely she lives to those of lesser means before I take her protestations against “apartment apartheid” to be anything other than crocodile tears motivated by political “optics.”

On the other hand, those who are lucky enough to live in a luxury condo building in Manhattan for $850-$1100 per month seem pretty damned happy with the separate-entrance trade off:

“'We can’t even use the pool or the gym,' said one renter [at the Edge Community Apartments], a 34-year-old bank employee who wanted to remain anonymous for fear of jeopardizing her one-bedroom rental. 'I’ve asked and offered to pay. It’s kind of messed up.'

But she and other tenants said they considered themselves lucky to have landed an apartment in the area, where everyone, rich or poor, steps out to views of the East River and Manhattan skyline and the vibe of Williamsburg.

' Living here is a privilege,' said Victoriano Oviedo, 59, a retiree who has a studio subsidized with a federal rental voucher. 'Over there you have powerful people. Over here you have low income people. I’m fine with that.'”
(My bold emphasis.)

In the end, is this much different than paying for a first-class ticket on an airplane vs. riding in economy class? Jeez! How discriminatory that those in first class get to board first! How discriminatory that the flight attendants in first class won't let me use the lavatory up front when I've really gotta go. How discriminatory that the flight attendants will serve booze to the first-classers when the plane waits at length on the tarmac, while those of us in cattle-class remain thirsty and unanesthetized! How discriminatory that I can't afford first class to begin with! There oughtta be a law...equally shabby treatment for everybody!

But somehow, I've always managed to make do without feeling that I'm a victim of “airline apartheid.”

While I think that it's silly, I don't see anything hugely embarrassing about requiring separate entrances—and providing different services—to those who are paying a whole lot less to still live in the lap of metropolitan luxury.

Someplace I certainly couldn't afford to live, not that I would want to.

Jay - Ottawa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jay - Ottawa said...

How many people dining regularly at the Four Seasons spend one second thinking about better nutrition for poor kids in slum schools? From the looks of it, the contented are fully absorbed in their contentment. If poverty, inequality and injustice for others elsewhere were not so well tolerated by the well-to-do, the world would look much different tonight.

How many people living in luxury condos spend one second considering as odd the apartness deemed quite acceptable for less affluent people living in the same building? Nothing wrong with that arrangement now, is there? Besides, the less favored in that arrangement accept the deal. So, shut up. They don’t need outside agitators upsetting the tolerant rich. The condo lower class intruders, in this case, have half a loaf of solidarity from the rich. That's good enough.

The very rich live well, as it should be. For the sake of quiet, the poor have been conditioned to accept the disparities, be they ever so slight, as in the condo sideshow, or enormous, as for the millions living on the edge. Otherwise, the streets would be lined with torches and pitchforks.

The less money you have going down the economic ladder the less your needs are deserving of fulfillment. That’s the accepted principle, the American Way. And so it follows that the less you have, the less you will get, even when that ‘less’ deposits you into a life of misery. The principle must hold. Be consistent.

How many passengers stretching out in first class with elbow room to spare spend one second considering the rotten service back behind the curtain in second class? None, because they don’t have to.

If the rich had to live under a bridge until everybody had decent quarters, it wouldn’t be long before just about everyone was housed properly. If the sons and daughters of the rich were bused to slum schools, the classroom teaching and the cafeteria meals would be a whole lot better. For everybody. If everybody who had to fly sat in one and the same class throughout the airplane, it wouldn’t be long before airlines treated all passengers a hell of a lot better.

Sad to say, solidarity doesn’t come naturally to the rich. Or those who aspire to be rich some day. Or those in thrall to the principles supportive of the disparities mentioned above.