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Supervisors vote to ban tobacco-flavored products

WAVE NEWSPAPERS — The county Board of Supervisors Sept. 24 unanimously voted its intent to approve a ban on flavored tobacco products, including menthol, despite protests by dozens of tobacco business owners and advocates who support vaping and e-cigarettes as aids to quitting smoking.

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Photo by: Milkwork | Twenty20

By Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — The county Board of Supervisors Sept. 24 unanimously voted its intent to approve a ban on flavored tobacco products, including menthol, despite protests by dozens of tobacco business owners and advocates who support vaping and e-cigarettes as aids to quitting smoking.

Groups from both sides of the issue tried to shout each other down while awaiting entry to the downtown Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration. Those against the ban — which would apply only to retailers in unincorporated areas of the county — carried signs reading “I Vape, I Vote,” while many proponents wore black T-shirts identifying themselves as “United Families and Parents.”

Supervisor Janice Hahn, who chairs the board, repeatedly warned the audience to respect other speakers and threatened more than once to clear the board room in the wake of shouts and cheers. More than 300 people signed up to speak on the issue.

“As you can tell, there’s a lot of passion around this issue,” Hahn told the crowd.

The ordinance needs to come back to the board for a second reading, as early as next week, and would take effect 30 days after that second vote.

Tobacco retailers would then have 180 days, under an amendment proposed by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, to obtain new licenses required under the ordinance and to clear their shelves of flavored tobacco products.

Online sales would not be prohibited and users would not be punished under the ordinance, according to Judy Whitehurst, senior assistant county counsel.

Department of Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer told the board that flavored tobacco products “are driving the current vaping epidemic among youth” and encouraging experimentation that can lead to lifelong addiction.

“Evidence is mounting that vaping can severely impact lung function,” Ferrer said, pointing to nine recent vaping deaths nationwide — including one in Los Angeles County — and decisions by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and surgeon general to declare youth use an epidemic.

One pod of a popular vaping product has as much nicotine as a entire pack of regular cigarettes and nicotine can affect brain development up until the age of 25, according to Ferrer.

“Kids are lured in by the flavors and they are locked in by the nicotine,” said Annie Tegen of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

But dozens of vaping advocates said flavored products had helped them quit pack-a-day smoking habits and improved their health.

“People who smoked for 30 or 40 years were able to break free,” George Baida told the board.

“Please do not restrict flavors. This is helping adults quit,” Brandon Minkler said.

“I’m addicted to not smelling like an ashtray and living a longer, healthier life,” another man said.

Others warned that they would lose their jobs to the ban and worried aloud how they would support their families.

“[It’s] a horrible idea to ban this,” said A Kouture, founder of the International Black Restaurant & Hospitality Association.

Kouture pointed out that government didn’t ban McDonald’s over worries about children’s health or prohibit flavored alcohol over concerns about teen drinking and warned that the ban would fuel a black market.

Business owners said they had no interest in selling to kids and pointed out that minors are violating the law when they use e-cigarettes and vaping products. Opponents to the ban urged the board to focus on enforcing existing laws or take aim against youth use with more targeted measures.

“This is our livelihood, this is all we know,” Farid Zahreddine told the board. “We’ve been selling this product for 10 years. … Please protect the kids and protect us.”

However, Ferrer said a compliance check of 280 shops showed that one in four were selling to underage consumers.

Several schoolchildren spoke in favor of the ban.

“Our classmates are getting so addicted that they are hitting their JUULs in the classroom at class time,” student Lisa Lu said. “We hope that L.A. can stand up against big tobacco.”

Business owners pushed back against that characterization.

“We are not big tobacco, we are small business,” said Chris Wheeler of Savage Enterprises, warning the board that the flavor ban would amount to “handing big tobacco a win.”

Each side took potshots against the other. KFI-AM radio host Wendy Walsh accused opponents of being “tobacco industry foot soldiers,” while one business owner said he saw kids being coached on what to say outside the boardroom.

Many speakers asked the board to make a cultural exemption for hookah use, which they argued was also far too cumbersome to be popular among kids.

But Ferrer said that 2% of high schoolers and 4% of young adults surveyed by her department used hookahs in the prior month. She emphasized that the ordinance wouldn’t ban the use of hookahs, only the use of flavors.

“What we’re asking for is to ban the sale of flavors that mask the harshness of tobacco products,” Ferrer said.

Supervisor Kathryn Barger said she believed that roughly 700 businesses in unincorporated areas would be affected by the ordinance and noted a lot of confusion around what the ordinance did and didn’t cover. She asked staffers to develop a fact sheet for businesses.

If ultimately passed, the ordinance would require a new county business license for tobacco and e-cigarette retailers that carries an initial fee of $778 and an additional $142 fee every two years after that. Businesses would also be required to maintain a tobacco retail license — expanded to apply to stores that only sell electronic cigarettes or vaping products — that costs $235 per year.

The county debate came on the same day the state Department of Public Health issued a health advisory urging everyone to refrain from vaping until investigations in vaping-related hospitalizations and deaths could be completed.

To date, some 90 Californians with a history of vaping have been hospitalized for severe breathing problems and lung damage. Two of those people have died.

Though a specific cause has not yet been identified, the state agency warned that anyone inhaling a foreign substance puts themselves at risk and that vaping may lead to serious illness and death.

“Vaping is not just a concern for youth; the vaping cases under investigation affect youth and adults alike,” Acting State Public Health Officer Dr. Charity Dean said in a statement.

Officials urged anyone with difficulty breathing after vaping to contact a doctor immediately. They also asked affected users not to discard used vaping cartridges, to allow state labs to analyze the remaining substance.

Wave Wire Services

The article the Wave Newspapers

#NNPA BlackPress

PRESS ROOM: First Book, an Innovative Leader in Education Equity, Releases Groundbreaking Research Illustrating the Impact of COVID-19 on Emotional Wellness of Students in Underserved Communities

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “Collaborating with First Book to provide educators with evidence-informed activities and curriculum is one more step forward in making sure they feel more prepared to support their students,” said Ariana Hoet, Ph.D., clinical director of On Our Sleeves and pediatric psychologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. “Educators have been on the frontline supporting children’s mental health before and throughout the pandemic with limited resources. We know the pandemic has exacerbated worries around children’s mental health, so this need is even more crucial than ever.”

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Nearly One Thousand Educators Participated; Report that over half (53%) of the students they serve struggle with their mental health

WASHINGTON, First Book, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring education equity for children living in poverty, today announced the results of a national survey designed to identify emotional wellness challenges faced by school-age children. In addition to reinforcing earlier findings regarding the devastating mental health effects of COVID-19, this survey shed new light on the severity of this impact — especially in communities of need. It also established that emotional wellness issues have become a significant barrier to education for many students who attend schools in these communities – a majority of whom are children of color. Pediatric psychologists from Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s On Our Sleeves movement for children’s mental health partnered with First Book to offer a clinical perspective on survey questions and process.

In the new survey findings, educators report that 53 percent of the students they serve struggle with their mental health and only 20 percent of educators feel prepared to support the mental well-being of their students. Of significant concern, 98 percent of educators say mental health challenges act as a barrier to children’s education. And notably, educators are facing their own mental health challenges. Student mental wellness issues have a ripple effect on educators who feel helpless and unsupported.

“Educators across the country are speaking out about the urgency of the mental wellness issues that their students are facing, how they don’t feel prepared to address the issues, and how those issues act as a barrier to learning. Based on what we’re hearing from our Network of educators, this is truly a crisis,” said Kyle Zimmer, president and CEO, First Book. “First Book is committed to supporting low-income communities that have been disproportionally impacted by the pandemic and the data revealed in this survey is guiding us in providing educators with high-quality, research-driven tools to nurture emotional wellness and develop healthy habits that prepare students to not only learn but thrive.”

On an ongoing basis First Book solicits input from its Network of more than 525,000 educators – all of whom serve children in need – to enable the organization to directly address the needs of practitioners and the children they serve. Mental wellness was spotlighted as a critical problem exacerbated by COVID-19, leading the organization to design focus groups and a survey to better understand the magnitude and scope of the issue, as well as what is needed to address this barrier to education. Nearly 1,000 educators responded to the survey providing startling data. The results provided a framework for the resource, which is now available, entitled: Taking Care: An Educator Guide to Healthy Habits for Student Emotional Wellness, a free resource created in collaboration with On Our Sleeves. The resource and study are now available through First Book.

“Collaborating with First Book to provide educators with evidence-informed activities and curriculum is one more step forward in making sure they feel more prepared to support their students,” said Ariana Hoet, Ph.D., clinical director of On Our Sleeves and pediatric psychologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. “Educators have been on the frontline supporting children’s mental health before and throughout the pandemic with limited resources. We know the pandemic has exacerbated worries around children’s mental health, so this need is even more crucial than ever.”

According to the First Book study, the top three life circumstances or experiences that contribute to children’s mental health challenges are 1) unstable or difficult home life; 2) hunger/food insecurity and 3) isolation due to Covid-19. Because these three factors often intersect as children grapple with returning to normalcy post-pandemic, the resources First Book provides to educators are essential tools for helping them become better equipped to aid students who are still dealing with the effects of Covid-related depression, trauma, loneliness, and loss.

First Book’s findings are particularly relevant given recent warnings issued by professional organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Children’s Hospital Association. These groups have declared a national emergency in children’s mental health and have noted that psychological strains, made worse over the past few years by pandemic-associated isolation, anxiety, fear, and grief, have caused a crisis in several societal sectors including education. They also emphasize that children in communities of color have been disproportionately impacted due to previously unresolved inequities linked to structural racism.

Additional key findings in First Book’s survey include:

  • 72% of educators say the pandemic has introduced new mental health challenges among students/children;
  • 65% of educators report the pandemic has exacerbated the existing mental health challenges students already faced;
  • 80% of educators believe gaining access to mental health support is a high or emergency priority in relation to students’ overall needs at this time;
  • 98% of educators say mental health challenges act as a barrier to children’s education;
  • 93% of educators became aware that a student was struggling with mental health issues due to a noticeable change in behavior;
  • 92% of educators indicated they are very or extremely interested in accessing support resources focused on promoting the general mental health and well-being of all students;
  • 51% of educators report that a student’s race/racial identity is relevant to their mental health;
  • 68% of respondents indicate that they take a child’s race and/or culture into consideration when supporting their mental well-being (e.g. observe family/cultural norms, design a culturally inclusive curriculum, and foster open and trusting relationships with their students);
  • 74% of educators are very or extremely interested in accessing support resources to help them approach mental health challenges related to race, identity, and intersectionality;
  • Older children reportedly struggle more than younger children. Educators serving middle and high school students estimate that 59% and 60% (respectively) of the students they serve struggle with mental health, while early childhood and elementary educators estimate 50% and 52% (respectively) of their students struggle.  This compares to the general population at 53%;
  • Educators in urban and suburban communities consider addressing mental health as a stronger priority (83% high/emergency priority) vs. their rural counterparts (75% high/emergency priority).

About First Book

Founded in Washington, D.C., in 1992 as a 501(c)3 nonprofit social enterprise, First Book is a leader in the educational equity field. Over its 29-year history, First Book has distributed more than 200 million books and educational resources, with a retail value of more than $2 billion. First Book believes education offers children in need the best path out of poverty. First Book breaks down barriers to quality education by providing its Network of more than 525,000 registered teachers, librarians, after school program leaders, and others serving children in need with millions of free and affordable new, high-quality books, educational resources, and basic needs items through the award-winning First Book Marketplace nonprofit eCommerce site. The First Book Network comprises the largest and fastest-growing community of formal and informal educators serving children in need.

First Book also expands the breadth and depth of the education field through a family of social enterprises, including First Book Research & Insights, its proprietary research initiative, and the First Book Accelerator, which brings best-in-class research-based strategies to the classroom via relevant, usable educator resources. First Book Impact Funds target support to areas of need, such as rural communities or increasing diversity in children’s books. For more information about First Book, please visit http://www.firstbook.org.

About On Our Sleeves®

Children don’t wear their thoughts on their sleeves. With 1 in 5 children living with a significant mental health concern and half of all lifetime mental health concerns starting by age 14, we need to give them a voice. On Our Sleeves®, powered by behavioral health experts at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, aims to provide every community in America with free resources necessary for breaking child mental health stigmas and educating families and advocates, because no child or family should struggle alone.

Since the inception of On Our Sleeves® in 2018, more than 3 million people in every state across America have interacted with the movement’s free pediatric mental health educational resources at OnOurSleeves.org and educator curricula have reached more than four of five classrooms across the United States.

To schedule an interview with a spokesperson for First Book, please contact Ian Kenison at ikenison@firstbook.org.

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Moore Brown: Maryland Set to Have Two Black Statewide Officials

NNPA NEWSWIRE — If they are elected, Maryland would be the first state to have two Black statewide officials. Wes Moore has caught lightning in a bottle. He has run ads that have been narrated by Oprah Winfrey and has captured the excitement of the moment in Maryland.

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By Lauren Victoria Burke, NNPA Newswire Contributor

On July 19, Wes Moore and Congressman Anthony Brown won their primary contests to be Governor of Maryland and Attorney General.

Maryland is a deep blue state that currently has a moderate Republican Governor. It is expected that Moore and Brown will have a major advantage over their Republican competitors.

If they are elected, Maryland would be the first state to have two Black statewide officials. Wes Moore has caught lightning in a bottle. He has run ads that have been narrated by Oprah Winfrey and has captured the excitement of the moment in Maryland.

Moore’s main opponent was former DOJ Civil Rights chief and DNC Chair Tom Perez. Perez came in second to Moore. The results were 36 percent for Moore, 27 percent for Perez and 19 percent for Peter Franchot.

Wes Moore’s victory is verification that Black statewide candidates in states with over 20 percent of the Black vote can run and win strong campaigns.

Current Governor Larry Hogan has said publicly that he will not vote for the Republican nominee for Governor. That nominee, Dan Cox, is a supporter of Donald Trump.

“Dan Cox …is a QAnon whack job who was in favor of calling Mike Pence, my friend, a traitor, when they were talking about hanging him,” Hogan said at a news conference on July 19.

Attorney and former prosecutor Glenn Ivey defeated former Congresswoman Donna Edwards in a primary to replace Anthony Brown in Maryland’s 4th district. Ivey is all but certain to be elected to Congress in such a blue district.

Lauren Victoria Burke is an independent investigative journalist and the host of the podcast BURKEFILE. She is a political analyst who appears regularly on #RolandMartinUnfiltered. She may be contacted at LBurke007@gmail.com and on twitter at @LVBurke

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DOJ Indicts Four Police Officers Who Allegedly Lied to Secure Search Warrants for Breonna Taylor’s Home

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “Breonna Taylor should have awakened in her home, as usual, on the morning of March 13, 2020. Tragically, she did not. She was just 26 years old. As Attorney General Garland just stated, today’s indictments allege that Louisville Police Detective Joshua Jaynes and Sergeant Kyle Meany drafted and approved what they knew was a false affidavit to support a search warrant for Ms. Taylor’s home. That false affidavit set in motion events that led to Ms. Taylor’s death when other LMPD officers executed that warrant,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke on August 4. 

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By Lauren Victoria Burke, NNPA Newswire Contributor

Tamika Palmer, Breonna Taylor’s mother, has long been insisting that Louisville police have never been at her daughter Breonna Taylor’s apartment on the night they shot her dead.

On August 4, the Department of Justice, led by the Attorney General and Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Kristen Clarke, announced the indictments of four police officers who fatally shot Ms. Taylor during a nighttime raid on her apartment.

They asserted that the officers lied in order to get a search warrant for Taylor’s apartment.

The Justice Department announced that the indictments against the four current and former police officers would include federal charges of using “unconstitutionally excessive force.”

“Breonna Taylor should have awakened in her home, as usual, on the morning of March 13, 2020. Tragically, she did not. She was just 26 years old. As Attorney General Garland just stated, today’s indictments allege that Louisville Police Detective Joshua Jaynes and Sergeant Kyle Meany drafted and approved what they knew was a false affidavit to support a search warrant for Ms. Taylor’s home. That false affidavit set in motion events that led to Ms. Taylor’s death when other LMPD officers executed that warrant,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke on August 4.

“The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution ensures that people are subject to searches only when there is probable cause supporting a search warrant. Falsified warrants create unnecessary hazards for the public and for the police, who rely on facts that fellow officers report in carrying out their public duties,” Clarke added.

“These charges focus on the conduct of the Louisville Metro Police Department’s Place-Based Investigations Unit. In the first indictment filed today, we allege that in early 2020, that unit was investigating suspected drug trafficking in the West End [area] of Louisville. On March 12, 2020, officers from that unit sought 5 search warrants they claimed were related to the suspected drug trafficking.  Four of those warrants targeted properties in the West End where that activity was allegedly occurring,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland before Clarke spoke.

Lauren Victoria Burke is an independent investigative journalist and the host of the podcast BURKEFILE. She is a political analyst who appears regularly on #RolandMartinUnfiltered. She may be contacted at LBurke007@gmail.com and on twitter at @LVBurke

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