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Cal Attorney General Wants FDA Standards for Menthol Cigarettes Finalized

As of June 16, 2022, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids reported that 127 localities in California have passed restrictions on the sale of flavored tobacco products. And at least 108 communities restrict the sale of menthol cigarettes, in addition to other flavored tobacco products.

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Last year, Governor Gavin Newsom called on the FDA to ban menthol cigarettes, stating that it “will be an important step in the right direction.”
Last year, Governor Gavin Newsom called on the FDA to ban menthol cigarettes, stating that it “will be an important step in the right direction.”

Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌ ‌|‌ ‌California‌ ‌Black‌ ‌Media‌

On June 13, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti signed into law an ordinance restricting the sale of menthol cigarettes and other flavored tobacco products. The ordinance is set to take effect on Jan. 1, 2023.

Last year, a version of the ordinance that exempted menthol cigarettes was opposed by Black council members Mark Ridley-Thomas, Marqueece Harris Dawson and Curren Price. They argued that studies have found Black Americans are the racial/ethnic group most likely to use menthol cigarettes and are 25 times more likely than white Americans to do so.

“Menthol is included in this ban, as it should be,” Harris-Dawson said before the June vote on the ban was taken. “It is a flavor just like every other flavor and it would have been extremely disappointing if we had said we’re going to protect people and children from uptake of tobacco, except for the flavor that we know Black people first, and Latinos second, use the most.”

As of June 16, 2022, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids reported that 127 localities in California have passed restrictions on the sale of flavored tobacco products. And at least 108 communities restrict the sale of menthol cigarettes, in addition to other flavored tobacco products.

In July, California Attorney General Rob Bonta joined a bipartisan coalition of state attorneys general in urging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to adopt final rules for banning the manufacture and sale of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars from the U.S. marketplace.

“Every day, hundreds of Californians will smoke their first cigarette and start down a dangerous path with devastating health consequences,” Bonta said in a written statement. “There is no time to waste. I urge the FDA to quickly finalize proposed regulations banning menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars, which predominantly harm young persons and people of color. Any further delay will only cost additional lives.”

The coalition that Bonta joined includes attorney generals from Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Idaho, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, the District of Columbia and the territories of Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

In the letter to the FDA, the attorneys general coalition highlighted the need to remove these products from the marketplace to protect public health and address the systemic and disproportionate impact of these products on vulnerable minority communities.

The FDA action to remove menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars is long overdue and supported by ample scientific evidence and their “popularity in the Black community is not an accident,” the letter stated.

They cited research that found menthol cigarettes disproportionately harm the health of vulnerable populations, particularly African Americans.

Overwhelming scientific evidence — including the FDA’s own findings and statements — leave no doubt that menthol cigarettes have far-reaching adverse impacts on public health, resulting in more smoking and more death and disease from tobacco use.

A recent study, published in Tobacco Control, found that menthol cigarettes “were responsible for 10.1 million extra smokers, 3 million life years lost and 378,000 premature deaths” between 1980 and 2018.

Menthol flavoring, which disguises the harsh taste of cigarettes, remains a primary reason why young people initiate and become addicted to smoking — with more than half of all adult smokers aged 18-34 introduced to smoking through menthol cigarettes.

Menthol cigarette use is also disproportionately high among LGBTQ+ smokers, smokers with mental health problems, and socioeconomically disadvantaged populations.

In August 2020, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill (SB) 793, a bipartisan effort that eliminated flavored e-cigarettes, including the candy flavors and minty menthol cigarettes, which he said, “lure our kids” into addiction. SB 793, authored by former Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), also prohibits the sales of flavored e-liquids used for vaping.

Last year, Newsom called on the FDA to ban menthol cigarettes, stating that it “will be an important step in the right direction.”

“I urge the federal government to follow California’s leadership to protect public health and advance racial equity by moving to ban menthol-flavored cigarettes,” Newsom stated in April 2021. “For decades, Big Tobacco has targeted and profited from Black communities with marketing for minty menthol cigarettes and as a result, smoking-related illnesses are the number one cause of death among Black Americans.”

In their letter, the coalition argues that the FDA’s proposed menthol ban is a critical step for advancing health equity and protecting public health and will not significantly increase illicit trade or preempt state or local restrictions.

“Removing menthol cigarettes from the U.S. market and prohibiting characterizing flavors in cigars is likely to reduce youth smoking initiation, improve smoking cessation outcomes in adult smokers, advance health equity, and benefit public health. Every year of inaction on these fronts costs thousands of lives and adversely affects the health of the public,” the attorneys general of 23 states and territories stated in a signed letter dated Jan. 22, 2021.

On the November 8 General Election ballot is Proposition 31 a referendum challenging SB 793 and aims to lift the current ban preventing stores from selling flavored e-cigarettes, menthol-flavored e-cigarettes and flavored tobacco products. A YES vote keeps the current ban on flavored tobacco products. A NO vote lifts the ban.

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Alameda County

District Attorney Pamela Price Will Face Recall Election on November General Election Ballot

The Alameda County Board of Supervisors scheduled the recall election against Alameda District Attorney Pamela Price for November 5, coinciding with the 2024 General Election. The decision comes after weeks of controversy and drawn-out discussions amongst county officials, recall proponents, and opponents, and legal advisors.

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Alameda District Attorney Pamela Price’s future will be determined on the November General Election ballot instead of a special recall election. On the left, DA Pamela Price. On the right, principal officer of the recall campaign Save Alameda For Everyone (SAFE). Collage by Magaly Muñoz
Alameda District Attorney Pamela Price’s future will be determined on the November General Election ballot instead of a special recall election. On the left, DA Pamela Price. On the right, principal officer of the recall campaign Save Alameda For Everyone (SAFE). Collage by Magaly Muñoz

By Magaly Muñoz

The Alameda County Board of Supervisors scheduled the recall election against Alameda District Attorney Pamela Price for November 5, coinciding with the 2024 General Election.

The decision comes after weeks of controversy and drawn-out discussions amongst county officials, recall proponents, and opponents, and legal advisors.

Recall proponents submitted 123,374 signatures before the March 5 deadline, which resulted in 74,757 valid signatures counted by the Registrar of Voters (ROV).

The recall election will cost Alameda County $4 million and will require them to hire hundreds of new election workers to manage the demand of keeping up with the federal, state and local elections and measures.

Save Alameda For Everyone (SAFE), one of the two recall campaigns against Price, held a press conference minutes before the Board’s special meeting asking for the Supervisors to schedule the election in August instead of consolidating with the November election.

Supporters of the recall have said they were not concerned with the $20 million price tag the special election would’ve cost the county if they had put it on the ballot in the summer. Many have stated that the lives of their loved ones are worth more than that number.

“What is the cost of a life?” recall supporters have asked time and time again.

Opponents of the recall election have been vehemently against a special date to vote, stating it would cost taxpayers too much money that could be reinvested into social programs to help struggling residents.

A special election could’ve cost the county’s budget to exceed its current deficit of $68 million, which was a driving factor in the three supervisors who voted for a consolidated election.

“Bottom line is, I can’t in good conscience support a special election that is going to cost the county $20 million,” Board President Nate Miley said.

Many speakers asked Miley and Keith Carson to recuse themselves from the vote, claiming that they have had improper involvement with either the recall proponents or Price herself.

Both supervisors addressed the concerns stating that regardless of who they associate themselves with or what their political beliefs are, they have to do their jobs, no matter the outcome.

Carson noted that although he’s neither supporting nor opposing Price as district attorney, he believes that whoever is elected next to take that position should have a reasonable amount of time to adjust to the job before recalls are considered.

Reports of recall attempts started as soon as April 2023 when Price had only been in office three months.

Price and her campaign team Protect the Win have been adamant that the voters who elected her to office will not fall for the “undemocratic” practices from the recall campaign and they are prepared to put all efforts forward to guarantee she stays in office.

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Bay Area

Radical Proposal to Limit the Power of Oakland’s Police Commission

Since February 2023, several stakeholders, including the Coalition for Police Accountability, began to work on amending the Enabling Ordinance of Section 604, Article VI of the Oakland City Charter. The Enabling Ordinance was approved by 83.19% of Oakland voters and established the civilian membered Police Commission (the Commission), the Community Police Review Agency (CPRA) and the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). The recent process to amend was focused on addressing some of the inefficiencies and disruptions that have occurred with the Police Commission and to establish guard rails and procedures to mitigate such issues in the future.

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Cathy Leonard, President Coalition for Police Accountability. Courtesy photo. Coalition for Police Accountability logo.
Cathy Leonard, President Coalition for Police Accountability. Courtesy photo. Coalition for Police Accountability logo.

By Coalition for Police Accountability

Since February 2023, several stakeholders, including the Coalition for Police Accountability, began to work on amending the Enabling Ordinance of Section 604, Article VI of the Oakland City Charter. The Enabling Ordinance was approved by 83.19% of Oakland voters and established the civilian membered Police Commission (the Commission), the Community Police Review Agency (CPRA) and the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). The recent process to amend was focused on addressing some of the inefficiencies and disruptions that have occurred with the Police Commission and to establish guard rails and procedures to mitigate such issues in the future. Councilmembers Dan Kalb and Kevin Jenkins are the authors of this legislation which is still in process.

A counter proposal was presented by Councilmember Jenkins to drastically amend Article VI, Section 604 of the City Charter. The proposal would remove the selection process of the police chief from the Commission and give that power solely to the mayor.  Currently, the Commission selects the candidates from which the mayor chooses the chief and presents them to the mayor who selects the final candidate. The proposal also moves the OIG to the Auditor’s Office. These proposals would rob the Commission and the OIG of independence from City Hall which 83.19% of Oakland voters sought in voting for Measure LL in 2016 and Measure S1 in 2018.

Our position is that the issues that have been raised about the hiring of the Chief, the appointment authority of Commissioners, and the scope of CPRA can all be incorporated into the ongoing collaboration of all the stakeholders working on the Enabling Ordinance. Those stakeholders are the two authors, the Coalition of Police Accountability, the Police Commission and the community members who have participated in this extensive work which has yet to be completed and approved by the City Council.  The Charter is very clear that the Commission hires the IG and that the IG is supervised by the Commission. The ordinance cannot override that provision of the Charter.

Amending the Charter is not the vehicle that should be used to make amendments. The proposed Enabling Ordinance should be given a chance to effect positive change before making radical and undemocratic revisions.

For further information, please contact the Coalition for Police Accountability by reaching out to Mariano Contreras at puralata1@gmail.com.

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Bay Area

Oakland International Airport Will Now Be Called ‘San Francisco Bay Oakland International Airport’

The Port of Oakland Commissioners voted unanimously to rename the Metropolitan Oakland International Airport to San Francisco Bay Oakland Airport at their board meeting last week. Despite a six-week battle with San Francisco leaders, residents and even Oaklanders, the Port remained steadfast in their decision to change the airport name in order to bring more revenue to Oakland’s economy.

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The Port of Oakland unanimously voted to rename Metropolitan Oakland International Airport to San Francisco Bay Oakland International Airport after weeks of controversy and legal pushback from surrounding Bay Area cities. Photo by Takako Phillips, iStock.
The Port of Oakland unanimously voted to rename Metropolitan Oakland International Airport to San Francisco Bay Oakland International Airport after weeks of controversy and legal pushback from surrounding Bay Area cities. Photo by Takako Phillips, iStock.

By Magaly Muñoz

The Port of Oakland Commissioners voted unanimously to rename the Metropolitan Oakland International Airport to San Francisco Bay Oakland Airport at their board meeting last week.

Despite a six-week battle with San Francisco leaders, residents and even Oaklanders, the Port remained steadfast in their decision to change the airport name in order to bring more revenue to Oakland’s economy.

The Port reassured all parties that the airport will continue to have its OAK three-letter code and ‘I Fly OAK’ phrases, to minimize confusion among travelers.

“Our Board came to these discussions with a shared love of Oakland and a desire to see our city and airport thrive. Since our initial vote, the Port has met with dozens of community leaders and stakeholders and heard their concerns. We are moving forward with a commitment to honoring our past while building a stronger, more inclusive future,” Board President Barbara Leslie said in a statement.

The Board had delayed their decision by a month in order to listen to community members’ concerns about the name change. Bay Area residents accused the Port of trying to rewrite history and hide their current problems with public safety and crime behind a big tourist attraction.

The Port stated that their intention is to boost the number of people who fly into Oakland, which will allow for travelers to get to know the city and spend their money in the local businesses.

According to reports, Oakland Airport (OAK) is the closest major airport to 58% of the Bay Area population.

In the days following the announcement for change consideration, San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu filed a lawsuit against Oakland to protect San Francisco.

The lawsuit argues that Oakland airport’s attempt to “unlawfully incorporate” the San Francisco trademark leaves the city with no choice but to sue for trademark infringement, false designation of origin and unfair competition.

San Francisco city leaders and Oakland residents have insisted that the new name will create confusion and chaos for travelers who are not familiar with the area or the distinction between the two airports.

The Port has since responded with a countersuit of their own, asking the courts to rule that their name change does not violate San Francisco Airport’s (SFO) trademark.

The counterclaim says that the Port “seeks to increase awareness of Oakland Airport’s geographic location on San Francisco Bay among potential travelers and thus increase passenger traffic at Oakland Airport, create jobs, and boost economic activity in Oakland and the wider San Francisco Bay Area.”

Two days before the Port meeting, Chiu sent another letter to the Port offering to collaborate with Oakland to find alternative names for the airport and avoid litigation.

Oakland Port Attorney Mary Richardson said in a statement the following day that the Port is willing to partner with SFO to bring as many options as possible to travelers and have an open dialogue on how to move forward, but ultimately will still change the Oakland airport name.

The ‘San Francisco Bay’ rebrand has already made its way to the airport’s website and physical changes such as signage will be coming in the following months. The name swap will cost Oakland about $150,000.

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