Wednesday, November 18, 2015

BAT to test tobacco/e-cigarette hybrid

This is VERY interesting...

It's about time that some brave company (major or otherwise) gave this idea a shot.

I, for one, would be very interested in trying one, as I am certain would be many smokers.

Too bad it's not available in America....

British American Tobacco plans to test a hybrid product that combines tobacco and e-cigarette technology next week in a European market, a senior executive said on Wednesday.

Friday, November 13, 2015

A Prayer For The Dead and The Wounded

We love you France-

Please say a prayer for the dead and the wounded.

Dr. Siegel On Proposed Public Housing Smoking (and vaping?) Ban

There is a federal ban on smoking, which may possibly even include vaping, being proposed in all public housing throughout the United States.

Poor people may risk being spied upon by their neighbors and other like minded busy bodies.

They may even risk eviction, which could catapult many into homelessness.

I was shocked to read a quote from Dr. Siegel that essentially was an endorsement of the idea.

I left this comment on the good doctor's blog (something I rarely do) that I will also leave here. It begins with a quote from the Dr. himself:

"“This is a natural step to continue to spread the smoke-free protections
that started with workplaces and then spread to restaurants and bars,” 
said Michael Siegel, professor of Community Health Sciences at Boston 
University’s School of Public Health."

Seriously Dr.? Do you realize what you are for advocating here? Do you not believe in the 4th Amendment and Equal Protection (14th Amendment) under the law for poor people?

Shame on you. I am disgusted.

For the love of God and country, stop LYING about the "effects" of 2nd hand smoke. You are aiding and abetting a totalitarian mindset.

Residents mixed on proposed smoking ban in public housing

...and according to this take on the proposed ban, it may also include e-cigarettes:

Public Housing Ban on Smoking May Include E-Cigarettes


How can we really believe that he is a proponent of harm reduction knowing that he supports such extremist measures whilst continuing to LIE about 2nd hand smoke?

There is no such thing as "harm reduction" if it is to be devoid of human kindness, empathy, and a deep reverence for our democratic way of life and government.

I am simply stunned.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

College Student Tackled in Her Desk By Cops Because She Smoked a Cigarette Outside

A young woman was tackled...for smoking...

I always knew that it would come to this.  I am speaking to the extremities of the anti-smoking and everything that "looks" like smoking movement, of course.

I am sad to say that this event took place in my home state.

It could have been me, and it might someday be you (or someone that you love) next.

Extremist measures almost always come in incremental fashion, but when the tipping point comes there is no turning back from the strong arm of oppression.  I do hope that this poor girl continues her education, free from PSD. I also hope that she sues the pants off of this university. God speed to her and to her lawyer.

"They called for backup..."

Backup? For what exactly?

College Student Tackled in Her Desk By Cops Because She Smoked a Cigarette Outside

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Stephen Colbert On The Meatocalypse

Hat tip to Audrey Silk from NYC Clash via Facebook-

I almost missed this and I am glad that I didn't.

I think that we all deserve a good laugh for a change.


State Sponsored Abuse

Look at what has become of the anti-smoker movement in Australia:

Angry pedestrian screams at woman for smoking in Martin Place

The man in the video is obviously stark raving mad and not a very nice person. With that said, what I would like to know is where did he ever get the idea that it should be incumbent upon (ie., "OK") him to berate and terrorize another citizen who is simply going about their day and business?

What is truly scary is that there are many more nutjobs with a penchant for totalitarianism lurking around most every corner.

I have myself encountered a couple of them, and they are not friendly either. In fact, some of them can be quite scary, and in more ways than one. It's their idea that people can (and should) be controlled, right down to the minutiae of day to day living, that scares me more than anything else.

There is no room for freedom and democratic thought in such a scenario.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

CASAA: National Call to Action: Tell the White House to urge FDA to re-work the deeming regulations so that life-saving vapor products can remain on the market!


Today, Tuesday, October 27th, longtime vaping opponent the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK) has organized a call-in action to urge President Obama to put pressure on the FDA to finalize their Tobacco Deeming Regulations. What CTFK and others are failing to mention is that if the deeming regulations are enacted as written, 99.9% of the vapor products currently on the market will be gone within two to four years. Make no mistake, the current proposed regulations will have a devastating impact on consumers and businesses alike; not to mention the obvious damage to public health.

CASAA: National Call to Action: Tell the White House to urge FDA to re-work the deeming regulations so that life-saving vapor products can remain on the market!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

CASAA: Call to Action! Support HR 2058 which would change the grandfather date for vapor products

If you care about freedom and harm reduction, please take take action by supporting HR 2058.

...and don't forget to share! Sharing is caring.

The FDA Deeming Authority Clarification Act of 2015 (HR 2058), introduced by Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma, would save the U.S. vapor industry from being destroyed by improper regulations by the FDA. This bill would amend the Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act to change the grandfather date for “deemed tobacco products.” This change would allow for all vapor products currently on the market to remain on the market without being subject to the burdensome (read: prohibitive) pre-market FDA approval application process.

While CASAA maintains the position that a separate regulatory scheme should be developed for vapor products*, we are proud to support HR 2058.

CASAA: Call to Action! Support HR 2058 which would change the grandfather date for vapor products

Monday, August 10, 2015

Boulder County Housing Authority Promises Inhabitants A More Difficult Life

Ok, this post is a rant on my part. In the grand scheme of things I realize that my rant is not going to change the reality that the poor and the marginalized in this country are increasingly being treated as though they were prisoners of some hierarchical moral crusade that harbors with it the de facto right to make people's lives increasingly more difficult, but it does feel good to let it all out once in awhile. I could not help myself when I read this news piece the other day. So here it goes....

Effective Aug. 17, tenants of Boulder County Housing Authority properties will no longer be able to use electronic cigarettes or vapor-smoking devices inside any of the county's 611 rental units or on most of the grounds outside those units.

Um, I guess that the Housing "Authority" has forgotten that "public" housing is owned not by them, but by the people.

They have also seem to have forgotten that we have the 4th Amendment in America which expressly states that unreasonable search and seizure is ILLEGAL in the great United States of America. Therefore, they CANNOT arbitrarily search the homes of poor people to see if they are smoking or vaping just because they damn well feel like it.

They also seem to think that they can change the definition of smoke in its vernacular on a whim...again, just because they feel like it. They cannot.

The new policy's expanded smoking prohibition also applies to marijuana.

Well, we saw that coming, now didn't we? Yeah, marijuana is legal in Colorado, but these people can do whatever they want because they have special powers that are only reserved for the special few.

They also seem to think that they can change the definition of smoke in its vernacular on a whim...again, just because they feel like it. They cannot, but that does not stop them from trying to redefine physics and science itself.

The new no-smoking policy the commissioners approved Thursday defines "smoking or smoke" as "either the carrying, smoking, burning, inhaling or exhaling of any kind of lighted pipe, cigar, cigarette, hookah, weed, herbs, incense, or any other lighted smoking equipment, or the use of any electronic smoking or vapor smoking device."

No incense for you, ok? ...and no vaping either, because vaping is smoking, ok? Got that? While we're at it, for the sake of consistency, why don't we ban tea kettles to?

Williford said the policy update wasn't prompted by any specific complaints from or about tenants. But she said officials decided the update was needed....

Well of course there were no complaints. That is likely due to the fact that most people are decent people who do not make it their life's mission to look for a problem where it does not exist. Real people are far to busy with the vicissitudes of every life to waste time on such nonsense. Most Americans that I have met in my lifetime also tend to hold our Bill of Rights in high regard; it is clear that these people do not. Their agenda takes precedence over our Democratic Republic. Aren't these people special?

In the past, she said, "I would always say anything that emits smoke, you shouldn't be using."

I hate to break it to you honey, but it is none of your damn business what legal substance(s) people choose to put into their own bodies. Got that? This is not a dictatorship and poor people are not your prisoners.

..she said most of the county-owned rental properties

Again, they have gotten it all backwards, for it is the people who are the sole proprietors of "public" housing and newsflash: smokers and vapers of legal marijuana, tobacco, and other nicotine/tobacco alternatives are citizens of the United States with rights just like everyone else. You, on the other hand, are merely an administrator to the public trust that is owned by the people. You cannot therefore, arbitrarily dictate from on high that smokers and vapers have no stake (or rights) when it comes to public housing.

..repeated violations could eventually result in the Housing Authority initiating the legal process of evicting them.

You cannot evict American citizens from their own property for taking part in a legal activity. Shame on you for thinking that you can.

Can anyone honestly dispute at this point that the anti-smoking crusade is not in large part fueled by prejudice, dogma and hate?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Freedom Calls In London

I have just returned from a brief trip to the U.K., where Jules and I squished as much as humanly possible into a week's time. We zipped around on the London Underground like locals visiting St James's Park, Westminster Abbey, Covent Garden/Theatre District, Islington (where we attended an open mic), Canary Wharf (where we attended Forest's annual Freedom Dinner), Camden Town (where they always have the coolest clothes), Paddington, Whitechapel (where we attended the East End Film Festival), and Didcot (where we were greeted by two of my uncles and several cousins). Whoosh! The week went by in a New York (or should I say London?) millisecond.

This has been such an interesting trip and on a multitude of levels, for this is the first time (in a long time) that we have had the time to wander around and explore London. Every time that we have been fortunate enough to visit the other side of the pond in the past (save for one time when I was really young) has afforded us no down time, as we were always off to the next town with our band playing shows. It was nice to experience London from somewhat of a different perspective this time around.

Thanks to an invite from Simon Clark, last Tuesday (July 7th) Jules and I attended Forest's annual Freedom Dinner. The event was held at the very classy and eclectic Boisdale of Canary Wharf where the food, service, and entertainment are all about as top notch as you can get. There were so many interesting people there that I almost had to pinch myself for a second...just to certify that we hadn't in fact entered into another dimension. After what has become about roughly 8 years of quasi-online advocacy of smokers' (and now vapers') rights, I was finally getting to meet some my fellow advocates from the other side of the pond, some of whom I have been following online for years now.

I was quite pleased to meet Simon Clark, Chris Snowden (pictured with me below), and Dick Puddlecote, all of whom were as cordial and engaging as I had imagined they would be in person. Jules and I also had the pleasure of meeting a couple of MPs, some fellow musicians (including the very talented cellist, Ivan McCready), a cab driver (who had the intellect of a professor), and even a couple of prominent think tank representatives. Hence, the attendees were as eclectic and as varied as the venue itself.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that there were representatives from several tobacco companies in attendance, one of whom sat next to me for dinner. He was genuinely approachable (yes, there are nice people that work for tobacco companies..) in such a way that I felt quite comfortable striking up a conversation with him as we compared vaporizers.

As I glanced around the room it was clear that this was a gathering of like minds that collectively believe in the value(s) of freedom and consumer choice. This was not an event to promote or demonize smoking, vaping, drinking, or fatty foods, it was an event that cast light upon the overall importance of freedom of choice and speech as necessary foundations to any free society. Virtually every speaker in attendance, including Simon Clark, Rob Lyons from Action on Consumer Choice, and Bafta award-winning film producer Stephen Evans, echoed this very sentiment. The cheers and (sometimes) hems and haws that emanated from the captivated audience had me feeling like I had a front row seat to Parliament in action, rather than watching them interact via Sky News in our living room. Though this wasn't Parliament, at times it sure felt like it. That made me chuckle. The British don't hold back in politics and I love that!

Much to my surprise, no one was sporting evil red capes, nor was anyone adorned with horns on their heads. Everyone in attendance actually appeared to be human. There was a strong libertarian sentiment at the Freedom Dinner. Hence, this event was more of a rallying call to the idea(s) and principles of freedom than an endorsement of any single political party. As independents who have held to the very liberal idea(s) of freedom, inclusiveness and diversity, Jules and I genuinely felt right at home, as would the likes of many supporters of Bernie Sanders and/or Rand Paul here in the U.S. for comparative measure.

There were some representatives there from JTI. Unfortunately I did not get a chance to meet any of them, otherwise I would have liked to have had the opportunity to inquire into whether or not they plan on re-introducing the Ploom modelTwo into the U.S. market since their recent acquisition of the intellectual property rights from the original Ploom in San Francisco means that I am now no longer able to buy pods (sorry, vapods..) here in the U.S.. Anyone who reads any of my online rants knows that over the course of the last couple of years I have become a really big Ploom fan. Due to my stumbling upon the already difficult to find Ploom modelTwo a couple of years ago, I have been smoke free for almost two years now. I have been rationing my remaining pods so that I can stretch out what I have left. Thanks deeming FDA regulations(?) for taking away the one thing that actually got me to quit smoking entirely. That last statement is a bit presumptuous on my part, but given the politics as of late, coupled with the deeming FDA regulations here in the states, I wouldn't doubt for a second that the reason why I can no longer purchase vapods here in the U.S. is directly linked to the folks on the Hill in D.C.. Thankfully, there is pipe tobacco to stuff into my PAX vaporizer(s)to get me through when I have that want of a real tobacco vape.

Nonetheless, I was pleased to see that the (reformulated) pods were available at several London shops that we visited around London. Instead of flavors like Gold, Orchard, and Jaybird, the new modelTwo vapods now come in flavors that mimic several popular cigarette brands, which although different, I found to be every bit as good as the original pods. Marketing the pods as alternatives to popular cigarette brands via their brand names is a smart way to encourage smokers (especially the ones that have found e-cigarettes to be unsatisfactory to date) to give vaping a try in my view. In the real world, one would think that offering yet another alternative that leads away from combustion is a good thing, but nooooooooo, not according the anti-everything tobacco related charlatans of counter-do-gooderism. To them anything and everything that resembles the act of smoking is actually smoking, even when it's not.

What am I referring to exactly? This is what I encountered upon my first purchase of vapods in the U.K.:

Smoking? Seriously?

So now vaporizing is no longer in fact vaporizing, it is now smoking? The laws of nature and physics have (all of a sudden) changed solely when dealing with anything related to tobacco? Holy bejeezus! I have now been enlightened by the ultimate magistrates of modern thinking! What utter crapola!

Now I am no scientist, but I have taken the liberty to photograph the remains from one of my vapods so that I could compare the spent vapod (with crushed tobacco) to that of an ashtray full of spent (ie., smoked) cigarettes. It is clear as day to anyone with eyes that the two are not even remotely the same.

..Spent vapod..

..VS spent cigarettes..

Again, smoking?

Oy. At least you can purchase them in the U.K. though, unlike here in the U.S.... However, with the exorbitant pricing (they are expensive, likely due to over-taxation) and the misleading propaganda forced upon this product, it is likely that many smokers (and I am not referring to the many former smokers out there that have already made the switch from combustion over to vapor via traditional e-cigs and PVs) will continue to smoke instead of switching over to vapor, thus harming the health of millions of smokers (ie., the ones who want an alternative to smoking) who could potentially benefit from the availability of this product if they only knew that it exists.

Oh, and did I mention that the pods are hidden behind a wall/slide door with all combustible cigarettes. What is up with the hiding of (any) legal product (including cigarettes)? Good lord. Smokers will never even find it. Hiding this new and novel alternative is akin to saying "we want you to continue on smoking, never mind the fact that there are less risky alternatives available...". This very much reminds me of the illiberal ban on snus in the E.U. and the misleading adverts that are placed on snus cans telling people that snus is not a safe alternative to smoking here in the U.S..It's almost like there is a concerted effort on the part of some health advocates to keep people smoking. Could it be? I have to wonder. What a crazy world we live in.

OK, now they are just insulting our intelligence...again. To put it mildly, this sort of madness all began with the gross exaggerations on second hand smoke. Now any exaggeration is never too great.

For the love of god and rational thinking, why are there adverts about smoking cessation on a VAPOR product? This only serves to irritate those who have already quit smoking! Actually, it's been almost two years for me now, thanks to e-cigarettes and tobacco-vapor alternatives. Many others in the U.K. and elsewhere have similar stories to tell. Get help? How about do no harm? Thanks, but no thanks OK? This line of thinking only serves to harm smokers in the U.K. and elsewhere, many of whom I happened to notice smoke roll ups (according to my observations around London) instead of pre-made (and filtered) cigarettes. One of the things that I like about the vapods is that the flavor is strong; this is what has ultimately led me to change my technique of vaping by no longer inhaling (anything) deeply into my lungs. Hence, I have quit smoking and inhaling all in one fell swoop. This may not work for everyone, but it may work for some if they had access to the truth. Did I mention that I was not attempting to quit smoking? This is precisely the sort of alternative that could (potentially) appeal to the very smokers that proponents of health pretend to care about. Why hide this (or any potential alternative for that matter) from so many people? Seriously. Why?

Freedom of speech and the right not to be forced to misrepresent the truth are quite literally synonymous (or are at least in theory) with public health and freedom itself. Nothing could be as liberal as the notion that people have the right to have access to the truth with regards to any issue, especially when it comes to the issue of what they choose to put into their own bodies. This is true even for tobacco and for all of its alternatives. This is what I ultimately took away with me from the Freedom Dinner .

Is there a way out of the illiberal thinking and persecution that has been forced upon smokers (and now vapers) for far too long now? Will we soon live in an era where the act of smoking is no longer affiliated with the likes of lung cancer, heart disease, and emphysema? Will we once again respect the right of smokers to assemble amongst themselves? Will the lonely who have been cast aside as a result of smoking (and now vaping) bans once again regain the social lives that they once had?

I would like to think that all of the above questions can be dealt with via a fair and inclusive approach, though the solutions will never come to fruition minus the free and open exchange of ideas that so often serve as prerequisites to progress itself. I am an optimist at heart, and although the progress that I speak of seems elusive and out of reach, I do believe that we'll get there....eventually. We in the Western world are free citizens, are we not? We slip every once in awhile, but ultimately freedom always leads to solutions, and there are solutions waiting to be discovered in the wings.

Ploom vapod and 2nd hand smoke hysteria aside, I cherish every opportunity that I get to visit the U.K.. It is where my mom is from and I generally love most everything about British culture...and I sure am going to miss zipping around on the London Tube. Jules and I were very fortunate to be able to meet so many great people while also having the time to visit my family. Maybe next time will be a music tour. We'll see...I hope that we get to go back sooner rather than later.

NOTE: Photos # 4, 5, and 6 © Dan Donovan. Photo # 3- open source/not known. All other photos- © Juliette Tworsey.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

City Of New Orleans Urges Citizens To Spy On One Another

You can't make this stuff up.

This is not satire. This is real:

The city encourages people filing complaints to include date- and time-stamped photographs documenting illegal smoking.

...and of course, this would include taking unwarranted photographs of vapers like myself..

What country is this again?

Have we fallen victim to a bad dream that just won't let us wake? No, says the bold-faced and brutal reality that thrusts itself upon what has fast become a definitive and waking moment:

There is nothing healthy about the trajectory of 21st century anti-smoking and anti-vaping fanaticism. In fact, it is fast becoming clear that it is incompatible with democracy itself. Don't believe me? Then just read the attached article below for proof of my accusation.

Democracy and health are synonymous entities. This is not a zero sum game, for neither can survive without the other. Both are suffering as a result.

How to report illegal smokers in New Orleans? City offers primer ahead of ban

Thursday, March 12, 2015

PAX Labs CEO Teases 'Fundamentally Different' E-Cigarette

PAX Labs (formerly known as Ploom) is at it again. Always on the cutting edge of vapor technology and THR, PAX Labs is setting out to prove that it understands what it takes to develop a satisfying vape. This is the company that is responsible for turning me into a former smoker, so naturally I am excited to find out more about anything new that they have to offer!


NEW YORK --The leaders of PAX Labs teased not one, but two upcoming new products from the San Francisco-based vapor manufacturer during a recent Wells Fargo “Tobacco Talk” Conference Call Series--an update to their heat-not-burn vaporizer and what they called a “game-changer” entrance into the electronic cigarette space.

The Pax 2 will retail for $280 (approximately $30 over the original Pax price point). 

“It’s a premium product,” said Bowen. “We’ve held to the premium position in the marketplace. This allows us to reinvest significantly, keeping our technology ahead of curve.”

Indeed, anything that I have ever tried from this company has been nothing other than top notch.

When it came to the company’s second product “announcement,” Bowen and Monsees were admittedly vague on the company’s yet-to-be-named e-cigarette product.

Though he couldn’t share a name, pricepoint or launch date, Bowen did promise that Pax’s offering is “an e-cigarette—but an e-cig that’s fundamentally different.

I am intrigued.

This is where things get really interesting:

Specifically, the engineers on Pax’s research and development team looked to solve the difference between how nicotine is delivered in a combustible cigarette versus an electronic cigarette.

“All the e-cigs on the market are basically using the same chemistry--nicotine in its pure form,” Bowen said. “If you look at cigarettes, what you find are nicotine salts: nicotine complexed with organic acid to form a salt. This was a huge discovery.”

Those salts, Bowen said, deliver nicotine in a vastly different way than the vaporization of liquid nicotine. From there, the company went to work reverse engineering the naturally forming nicotine salts from tobacco leaves to use in their electronic cigarette product.

“The result of this is really profound: a night and day difference,” said Bowen. “This new platform delivered, finally, a real cigarette experience.” 

This is a product that is ultimately going to change the nature of the e-cigarette industry,” Monsees said.

That's a pretty bold statement to make, but considering the source, I believe it. As a major fan of the original PAX and the modelTwo, I am looking forward to trying out any new product that comes from this novel and progressive minded company.

PAX Labs CEO Teases 'Fundamentally Different' E-Cigarette

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Action Alert! Defend the right to vape in Illinois!

From Julie Pisciotto via CASAA:


Wednesday March 4th

HB2404 will add vapor products to the Smoke Free Illinois Act

HB2404 restricts vaping like smoking cigarettes ONLY because the vapor looks like smoke

- Vapor is NOT smoke

- Vapor is not harmful like smoke

- Adding Vaping to this Act and inferring that the vapor is harmful 
IS Misleading Consumers about the relative harms

- Adding Vaping to this Act and inferring that the vapor is harmful 
WILL deter people from trying this less harmful alternative

Call members of the Consumer Protection Committee

Representative Thomas Bennett (R) 106th District
(815) 432-0106

Representative Avery Bourne (R) 95th District
(217) 324-5200

Representative Peter Breen (R) 48th District
(630) 403-8135

Representative Jerry F. Costello, II (D) 116th District
(618) 282-7284
and continue to call the following 2

Chairperson of the Committee
Representative Elizabeth Hernandez (D) 24th District
(708) 222-5240 
(217) 782-8173

Chairperson of the Committee
Representative Eddie Lee Jackson, Sr. (D) 114th District
(618) 875-9950
(217) 782-5951

Tell Your Story!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Support Lawsuit Against Govt Overreach by Audrey Silk

Please help if you can..and don't forget to share. Thanks in advance!

Click here to support Lawsuit Against Govt Overreach by Audrey Silk

This might sound like it's about smoking but it's much more than that.  It's about protecting everyone's interests against government encroachment where, by law, it ought not be.
When government bureaucracies are allowed to get away with breaking the law, it's the law itself that suffers and, next thing you know, it will 'only' be about some activity you enjoy or some group you belong to."

In May 2012 the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historical Preservation announced it had taken unilateral action to ban smoking in state parks and beaches without benefit of legislation.

The problem with that was not that a smoking ban in state parks was illegal. Rather, it was that the Office of Parks had exceeded its authority -- that the ban was imposed by bureaucratic fiat, not legislated law, and on that basis alone, was unconstitutional.

In fact, the New York State legislature has repeatedly declined to pass this specific law for over a decade, as proposed by both houses. At least nineteen bills have been rejected. The Office of Parks, therefore, not only exceeded its administrative mission, not only assigned itself legislative powers, butin fact went against the legislature's will.

My organization, NYC Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment (C.L.A.S.H. ), sued on those grounds. We won .

They appealed.  They won .  Sigh.  

C.L.A.S.H. is now in the process of filing the next appeal. But C.L.A.S.H. is cash poor. In fact, in the interest of total transparency, the last round  was almost entirely paid for with the private money of its founder, moi,Audrey Silk.  This shouldn't be when the benefit is the protection of all against the whims of unelected officials.  No one's civil liberties are safe if this is allowed to go unchecked. 

Worse yet are instances where government bullies you out of defending yourself when challenged by them simply because you can't afford legal representation. The government then has the nerve to describe it to the media as a "success of [our] lawsuit" as if the case was heard in court.

A favorable outcome reaches beyond the borders of New York state in that this will send a message to non-legislative bodies in jurisdictions across the country that might contemplate doing the same that they cannot violate the rule of law and to step back. 

C.L.A.S.H.'s Attorney Brett Joshpe has said, "This is another example of government run amok in our society. Unelected officials simply cannot create substantive laws and restrict peoples' freedom without appropriate legislative authority. Democracy is as much about process as it is about results, and this is a flagrant abuse of process that we will not allowto go unchecked."

No matter what state you live in, no matter if you smoke or don't smoke, your donation to this legal fund is an investment in your own right to be free from lawless governance.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Thoughts on The New Orleans Smoking Ban Hearings-

For those of you that are unaware, there is a wide reaching ordinance being proposed  by New Orleans Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell that would ban smoking and all forms of vaping virtually everywhere in the city, inside and out.  There has already been talk of amendments amongst council members, but that is not what I am going to talk about in this post. What I want to share is my experience and observations on what took place at the two town hall sessions before the council’s Community Development Committee on Weds., Jan. 7th and on Weds., Jan. 14th.

Round One…..

Hearing #1 took place at 10 am in the morning. The first thing that I noticed upon arriving was the number of people in attendance. The place was packed to capacity and many people were not allowed in to listen or to fill out a speaker card.  I took a quick glance around the room and I immediately noticed that the room had been divided into three factions, one with smoke and vape-ban  proponents  heavily armed with t-shirts calling for a smoke free New Orleans. Smoke and vape ban opponents were identifiable by stickers provided by  Freedom To Choose Nola .  There was a sizable pro-vape ban contingent that brandished “I am not a smoker…..anymore!” t-shirts that lined the back wall and portions of the adjacent wall. I chose to sit amongst the 2nd group.

The first segment of the hearing was allotted to a panel of health industry lobbyists that took up a good portion of the 1st hour, leaving the public only one minute to speak per person in the remaining hour. All three factions had an impressive turnout, but a quick glance around the room told me that there were more opponents than proponents of the ban; and that’s not bad considering the amount of time, preparation, and money that is often afforded to pro-ban campaigners. Passing bans around the country is their job after all, and they’re quite good at it.  Each panelist went on about the dangers of 2nd hand smoke and the need to protect employees from exposure in the workplace. When the panel (there were no detractors) was finally finished the public was invited (one by one) to speak.

My first observation was that ban proponents were well organized. They stayed with the uniform message of protecting workers and musicians from 2nd hand smoke while making it a point to wax quixotic on the new(er) danger of “passive aerosol”.  They had the head of the Musician’s Union (of which I was briefly a member) Deacon John, musician Irvin Mayfield (who owns a smoke-free venue on Bourbon St.), the head of the local Musician’s Clinic, smoke-free volunteers, and a small smattering of smoke-free bar owners all calling for a smoke free New Orleans. Presumably, the latter group was merely in it just to “level the playing field”. Though not in attendance physically, even the local radio station has been campaigning with them ( band was scheduled to do an on air performance a few months back...we were cancelled by management and  never asked back…Coincidence? I can’t prove it, but I believe that there is a price to disagreeing with smoke ban proponents) via on-site ads and sponsored smoke-free shows. Never mind the fact that most live music venues in New Orleans, save for Bourbon St. (and there are even smoke-free venues there), are already smoke-free.  The more trendy and upscale Frenchmen St. is currently about 95% smoke free. I only know of one venue there that allows smoking. Oh, and God bless him, they even had a minister get up and speak in favor a smoke free NOLA. I am sure that he is the type to frequent bars, live music venues and drinking establishments.

Listening to the pro-ban side and realizing the amount of power attached to it, my heart sank knowing the risk that I’d be taking as a local musician by speaking out against this ban, but I choose to speak out anyhow; it’s the way that I’m wired. I’ve never liked it much when other people tried to tell me how I lived my life. The first song that I ever sang in a band was a Who cover song….’nuff said.

Those opposed to the ban in its entirety were comprised of local casino representatives, local bar and casino workers (and there were a lot of them), an owner of several bars on Bourbon St., residents of the Quarter, and as far as I could tell, one lone musician: me. Even though I know musicians against that are the ban, I was the only musician to SPEAK out against the ban that day. There were quite a few people in our amalgamated and loosely aligned group of ban dissidents. In fact, it appeared to the eye that there were more us than “them”. Why didn’t more musicians speak out against the ban? My only guess would be that getting up there in front of so many powerful people can be quite an intimidating experience, especially in a climate where many of your potential employers are supportive of the opposition. Disagreeing with the establishment can be a scary thing when gigs and money are already scarce.

Our group was nothing like the more organized pro ban group that occupied the left side of the chamber.  We had no professional lobbyists speaking on our behalf, no formal welcome committee, and no real organization. We each got up to tell our story (in one minute) on how and why we had come to oppose the ban. The reasons given varied from being about the potential for lost job and tourist revenue, lost revenue for the state (and thus, for the state police), lost freedom, lost private property rights,  a loss of social cohesion and diversity, and the catastrophic loss of the laissez-faire attitude that New Orleans has come to be known and loved for. There was no one on our side to contest the “settled science” on 2nd hand smoke or the “dangers” of aerosol/vapor, save for me of course. My years (about 7 now) of reading and conducting research on the science and politics of smoking (and now vaping) bans have afforded me the luxury of coming across some  potent  and  valuable information  that calls the “settled science” of decades past into question. This is what I attempted to base the first 30 seconds of my time speaking on, with the remainder of my time spent on questioning why they would want to ban vapor products that harbor the potential to save lives.  I showed them my Ploom tobacco vaporizer and I told them that this is what helped me to transition away from smoking entirely. I also told them how I had used it in a crowded non-smoking bar on Frenchmen St. and how no one had even noticed that I was doing so until a couple of patrons saw me partaking in the hand to mouth motion, of which one made it a point to marvel at the brilliance of the technology. The point that I was trying to make was that clearly my little vapor pipe is annoying to no one, not even in a non-smoking venue, so why ban it? I mentioned how vapor technology has the potential to save lives. I closed by saying that I oppose the ban in its entirety and that I supported the right of the property owner to choose between being a smoking or non-smoking establishment.  I wanted to say more, but that was it: minute up.

Then came the e-vapers with their “I am not a smoker….anymore” t-shirts. As a vaper myself, I have to say that I was quite pleased to see them there…..more for the side of freedom I thought…As a proponent of harm reduction, I have to admit that I felt a sense of pride for them. Then one by one, vaping proponents took to the podium and proceeded to side with the pro-ban side by expressing their distaste of smoking and all things tobacco (I vape tobacco..I also have a couple of mods, but whatever…). I was mortified. They had thrown smokers (many of whom are musicians and my friends) under the bus.  How could they have become so judgmental I wondered? Truth be told, only a few vapers had the chance to speak at the first session. No worries I thought, for surely the remaining vapers in the room would speak out on behalf of freedom of choice in the next round. 

The pro-ban side began throwing in its two cents (mostly coming from health advocates) on how vapor should also be banned. The look on the faces of vaping advocates was pure astonishment, and rightfully so, for the same trusty strategy used against smokers was now being used on vapers. They/we were now getting thrown under the bus with the smokers. The clock hit 7:00 pm on the wall and the first session was over, much to the protest of many vapers who did not get the chance to speak. There were shouts of protest and a few vaping advocates were ejected from the room.  The representative from the ALA was allowed to speak a SECOND time giving her the last word of the evening. Then the committee voted 3/2 to bring the ordinance, with amendments (more on the amendments as they become clear to me), to a vote before the entire council, but not before holding one more “open” public discussion to allow for more public “debate”.

Round Two……

Weds., January 14th @ 5:00 pm marked the beginning of the 2nd Town Hall discussion on Councilwoman Cantrell’s proposed ban on smoking and vaping in New Orleans.

Expecting another packed house, I arrived early. As expected, the pro-ban side had their army of ban proponents there before everyone else. It didn’t look good I thought as I sat there on the opposite side of the room anticipating the arrival of more like minds. Then much to my relief, more and more people began to fill up the chairs around me. Once again there was also a sizable group of vapers in the room by the time the session was about to get underway, but not as many as the week prior. In the end it appeared to my eye that the room had about an equal amount of pro and anti-ban proponents, along with the vapers, who tried to remain autonomous from the first two groups. This time there was an allotment of two minutes, rather than one, for each speaker.  The room was divided roughly into three factions, just as it had been the week before, with the exception of some loosely integrated pockets.

On the fence about whether to fill out a speaker card for a 2nd time, I took the liberty of speaking once more. What the hell, I figured, I might as well try to finish what I couldn’t squeeze in the week prior. One minute was not nearly enough time to get my point across the last time, and I have since learned that neither is two. It takes a special set of skills to make a case about something in two minutes, but I’m learning.

Each side had roughly the same message as the week prior, save for some new and novel arguments relating to wild and far reaching claims about the dangers of 3rd hand smoke,  and the possible use of cannabis in e-cigs.  There was even reference made to the idea that e-cigarettes could be used for crack cocaine. There was also a fear that vaping could serve to “re-normalize” smoking (courtesy of the ALA representative). Ban proponents therefore made a special effort to focus on the demonization of e-cigarettes and aerosol.  “E-cigarette aerosol is filled with formaldehyde, diethylene glycol, and tobacco specific nitrosamines..” cried one ban proponent. Vaping enthusiasts were not thrilled, and neither was I.  I could see them shaking their heads in utter disbelief at the exaggerations being put forth by various health proponents. Ban proponents even brought in Louisiana Democratic Party Chairwoman Karen Carter Peterson (D-New Orleans) to speak in favor of the comprehensive ban:

"I’m hopeful that next Thursday you get the support you need to make New Orleans and its citizens healthier,” she said. “This ordinance is a critical instrument in fighting for healthier air for all of us.”

OK, why is the government lobbying government to take away the rights of its own constituents I wondered? I thought that this was supposed to be a forum for the RESIDENTS and BUSINESS owners of New Orleans! How does a community defend itself from regulatory overreach when its own government is lobbying against the very constituents that it is supposed to represent? Furthermore, aren’t our representatives supposed to represent ALL of the people? Quickly I began to realize how futile my argument was. The decision likely had already been made.

They even brought in a pediatrician to speak on the danger that 3rd hand smoke poses to children when their parents come home with the smell of smoke on their clothes after being in a smoking allowed bar. No, I am NOT making that part up. He really said that 3rd hand smoke is dangerous and that "the children" need to be protected from it. In addition, there was one woman who howled into the microphone that she felt sick because she could smell the smoke on the clothes of the woman sitting next to her. “I feel like someone has just shot Novacaine into my nose” she howled. No. I am not making that part up either. Suspicious minds think that she merely had an aversion to sitting next to anyone on our side of the room that harbored an alternative opinion different to her own. She and her significant other proceeded (after her speech) to pick up their things and move to the center of the chambers…..where it was at least 1/2  full with smoke and vape ban opponents. Frustrated, she and her significant other picked up their things and left.

On Vapers and Quasi ANTZ Support..

I would like to conclude this post by saying this:

For those who are not familiar with the tactics of anti-tobacco campaigners, much of what I have described thus far should come off as being quite shocking. I have to admit that many of the claims made by anti-tobacco and anti-nicotine campaigners still continue to shock the hell out of me to this day; however, what really stunned me the most was when one after another, vaping advocates proceeded to side with anti forces, often clapping their hands and nodding in agreement with many of the claims made by pro ban speakers. WTF? How can they believe all of the lies about 2nd hand/3rd hand smoke and the “10 gazillion chemicals” in tobacco smoke and then in the same breath (pun intended) act surprised when the very same people exaggerate the risks from “passive vaping”? How could they be so blind I wondered? Even if we do manage to get vapor products exempted from this proposed ban, don’t they realize that the prohibitionists are masters of incremental subjugation with only one end game in mind? I realize that many vapers feel that they need to separate vaping from smoking. I get that. Vaping is NOT smoking. However, as a vaper myself I surmise that throwing smokers, service industry workers, and private business owners under the bus will only serve to leave us standing all alone when they come back for us next year; and they WILL be back for us next year. Count on it. They are already on our front porch. Furthermore, for those vapers who loathe all things tobacco, I have one question:

Don’t you remember where you came from?

The fact that smokers are habitually thrown under the bus by the ANTZ is par for the course in our neo-healthist (the irony here is that I’m somewhat of a health nut myself, but whatever…) world.  It’s not “right” nor just to tell other people how to live their lives, but that is what we have come to expect from anti-smoking campaigners these days. What I didn’t anticipate was being sideswiped by fellow vapers, most of whom are former smokers like myself.  I understand the anger amongst some against (certain) tobacco companies for what appears to be an  effort to put many independently owned vape shops out of business, but how does directing your ire towards the people that you are purporting to care about help our cause? Why take out your anger, however direct or indirect, on smokers and other small business owners like yourself? That’s what the ANTZ do. We don’t need to perpetuate the lies and exaggerations of 2nd hand smoke in order to demonstrate that vaping is not smoking when the science is already clear on that.  Why not focus on the bigger picture?

The Lesson Learned…..

The cause of freedom is not contingent upon the wants of one faction over another; that is the game that the ANTZ use to take freedoms from ALL of us. In any war the first casualty is truth. First they come for me, then they come for you.  No one wins in such an environment. This is not a zero sum game. Freedom and the overall message of harm reduction are synonymous with one another.  Selling out for short term gain equates to long term loss for everyone and on a multitude of levels.  Unfortunately, there are some people out there that think that it’s their job to take away the people’s freedom.


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Sign The Petition | Freedom to Choose NOLA!

Hello and Happy New Year to all.

Sadly, there is no time to rest for the "wicked".

For those of you who have either come to let loose in New Orleans in the past and for those of you who plan to come for a holiday in the future, there is a proposed ban in New Orleans that would virtually ban all smoking and vaping pretty much anywhere within the city, indoors and out.

Please sign the petition linked below. Thank you in advance!

 Sign The Petition | Freedom to Choose NOLA!