Anti-Blackness and racism in America are a public health crisis that requires sweeping policy and systems change. We join the protesters here in Minnesota and across the world in calling for justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Philando Castile, Jamar Clark and the many other Black people who have been murdered by law enforcement and others acting under the cloak of white supremacy in the United States.
On August 28, 2020, California became the second state in the nation, after Massachusetts, to pass a broad law prohibiting the sale of most flavored tobacco products. This follows the action of over 270 localities in nine states across the U.S. that have enacted flavored tobacco bans.
For public health advocates, the problem of commercial tobacco product waste may pale in comparison with the huge toll of sickness and death caused by tobacco use. By ignoring it, however, we are missing an opportunity to combine the evidence of both the human and the environmental devastation caused by tobacco to make an even stronger case for achieving the tobacco “endgame”—ending the sale and use of commercial tobacco products altogether.
Here at the Public Health Law Center, we have long advocated for accelerating the so-called “end game” to phase out the sale of cigarettes and other combustible commercial tobacco products. But today, like so many others, we find ourselves re-examining our agenda, wondering where yesterday’s priorities fit in today’s crazy times, when we are not only consumed by the coronavirus, but also awakening more fully to the underlying crisis of racism that infects every institution of our society.
The Public Health Law Center emphatically supports the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council (AATCLC) and Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) as they sue the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its failure to ban the sale of menthol cigarettes. Read their announcement here.
In response to the e-cigarette epidemic and the vaping-related lung injury crisis, many local governments, states, and tribes have established sales prohibitions and emergency bans, and taken other actions removing these harmful products from the marketplace. Though federal action to do the same has moved at a near-glacial pace, federal regulators are now taking small steps to remove some e-cigarettes from the marketplace. Unfortunately, getting these products off the shelves is not the end of the public health response. That’s because once they can no longer be legally sold, they are likely to be considered hazardous waste under federal law. Therefore, retailers must comply with hazardous waste law when getting rid of unsold products when sales restrictions make their inventory unsellable.
On January 2, 2020, in response to two years of skyrocketing rates of youth use of e-cigarettes, the FDA took a small step to restrict e-cigarette sales. The FDA issued a guidance prohibiting all sales of cartridge-based e-cigarettes that are not flavored with menthol or tobacco, after a 30 day sell-off period.
Under federal law, able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) can receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for only 3 months in a 36-month period unless they meet specific work requirements. States can request waivers for areas with unemployment rates above 10% or that are deemed to lack sufficient jobs. Congress allows these waivers because economic conditions may hinder SNAP recipients’ ability to secure enough work hours to meet work requirements.