Maybe California Isn t So Bad

California FlagCalifornia gets a lot of criticism from us for often not being on the side of science. But in the past few months, they ve done some serious good for the public health.

In April, a California Senate committee voted not to pass SB 203, which would have required soda companies to print warning labels about the sugar content of their beverages. Such a policy would confusingly target sodas, sports drinks, and energy drinks, however it would not require a label for other beverages high in sugar and calories such as blended frozen coffee drinks (looking at you, Starbucks) or fruit juices. While obesity-related diseases are a real problem in the United States, the California policymakers fortunately realized that such a bill would only be an expensive, yet ineffective non-solution.

We have condemned, quite often, the so-called philosophical vaccine exemption policies in about twenty states, especially the largest one: California. These short forms allow parents to get their unvaccinated kids into public schools and daycare, presenting a threat of contagion to their classmates. Until recently, that is: last month, SB 277 eliminating almost all non-medical exemptions was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, making it law a huge success for public health. The bill, which goes into effect in the 2016 school year, bars religious and personal-belief exemptions for children in school and daycare. The passing of the law makes California the third state along with West Virginia and Mississippi to disallow these exemptions. The bill was a response to the widely covered Disneyland measles outbreak of December 2014.

And now, a California bill (SB 140) that would have restricted electronic cigarettes was dropped after an amendment was added removing the designation of e-cigarettes as tobacco products. The author of the bill, Sen. Mark Leno (D San Francisco) abandoned the bill after the amendment, saying that the change undermined the bill s central intent. I no longer believe in it, he told committee members.

Numerous vaping advocates celebrated outside of the Capitol after the vote. Many who testified against the bill were previously heavy smokers of traditional cigarettes and said they were able to quit with e-cigarettes.

Leno believes e-cigarettes, which contain nicotine, should be classified and regulated as tobacco products because nicotine derives originally from tobacco plants.

It s no small difference of opinion whether these are tobacco products or not, because if they re not tobacco products, Big Tobacco can continue to market their non-tobacco product to our children, Leno argued. However, California banned the selling of e-cigarettes to minors in 2010.

Vaping advocates rejected any association to the tobacco industry. Yes they make e-cigarettes, but they do not represent this industry this industry was created by ex-smokers who use these products to quit, testified American Vaping Association president Gregory Conley.

Well, when we see a salutary change in a state s policies, we must take special care to applaud it as with the Prodigal Son. Good job, California. You ve still got a ways to go (I m looking at you, Prop. 65!), but we live in hope.