up in smoke
November 18, 2019

In response to the youth vaping epidemic and growing concerns about lung disease, President Trump — at the urging of first lady Melania Trump and his daughter Ivanka Trump — announced he wanted to ban candy, fruit, and mint e-cigarettes. His outlook changed after White House and campaign officials warned him such a ban could cause him to lose the votes of people who own vape shops and those who use the products, The Washington Post and The New York Times report.

A Trump adviser told the Post on Sunday that on Nov. 4, Trump refused to sign a "decision memo" about the ban because he was worried about the repercussions. A news conference had been set for the next day, with officials prepared to say the flavored e-cigarettes would be off the market within 30 days, but Trump was reportedly spooked by what he heard from his campaign manager, Brad Parscale, who said a ban could hurt his chances in battleground states.

"He didn't know much about the issue and was just doing it for Melania and Ivanka," a senior administration official told the Post. It's unclear if he will come up with a new policy.

After Trump first mentioned the ban, angry vapers took to social media, tweeting their thoughts on the matter along with the hashtag #IVapeIVote. While the move may please pro-vaping advocacy groups, anti-tobacco activists aren't ready to give up just yet. "If the federal government doesn't take strong action, it's clear now the states will," Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, told the Post. "There's a crisis that needs to be addressed." Catherine Garcia

July 1, 2019

Yes, the Fourth of July is this Thursday.

That may have been obvious to anyone with a calendar, but President Trump apparently needed a reminder. That's because he's running Washington, D.C.'s Independence Day extravaganza, and he still has a lot of details left to figure out, The Washington Post reports.

When it comes time to plan big celebrations on the National Mall, the government typically hires an experienced producer. But for Thursday's event "the producer is the president himself," the Post reports. Trump isn't taking his event planning role lightly, insisting he has a say in "everything from how the pyrotechnics should be launched to how the military should be honored," the Post continues. And he's reportedly usurping the attention of both National Park Service acting director P. Daniel Smith and Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to do it.

So far, Trump has reportedly transferred the location of the fireworks display to West Potomac Park, and is reviving his old demands for a display of military vehicles on the Mall. But while Trump has long called for a military parade, the Pentagon is only currently considering "static displays" on the Mall, per the Post. That leaves a parade still up in the air, along with the distribution of VIP tickets for watching Trump's Independence Day speech.

The White House declined to comment on its July Fourth plans, but Bernhardt said in a news release that it would contain "music, flyovers, a spectacular fireworks display, and an address by our Commander-in-Chief." Read more at The Washington Post. Kathryn Krawczyk

August 19, 2018

President Trump intends to announce this coming week new guidelines for emissions from coal power plants, The Washington Post reported Saturday.

The proposal would reverse an Obama administration policy, the Clean Power Plan, intended to discourage coal use long-term. The new plan would allow states to set comparatively looser standards for coal plants for the next decade.

The Post reports the Trump proposal will result in the release of 12 times the amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as compared to emissions under the Obama-era rules, and other pollutant emissions will be affected as well:

(The Washington Post)

"These numbers tell the story, that [the Trump administration] really remain[s] committed not to do anything to address greenhouse gas emissions," said Joseph Goffman, formerly associate assistant administrator for climate at the Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Air and Radiation. "They show not merely indifference to climate change but really, opposition to doing anything about climate change."

The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, meanwhile, hailed the expected rule change as a win. "We're certainly pleased and supportive of the administration rolling back what we thought were harmful regulations," said the organization's president, Michelle Bloodworth. "It's a step in the right direction." Bonnie Kristian

October 12, 2017

Thousands of buildings and businesses have burned down in Northern California since wildfires started to sweep through the region Sunday night, and several marijuana farms in the so-called Emerald Triangle have gone up in smoke.

It's a heavy hit for owners, who don't have insurance on their crops because of federal laws against marijuana. Derek Peterson, CEO of Terra Tech, told CNN Money farmers on average invest $5 million in their facilities and up to $3 million on growing the crop, and "if their facilities burn down, a lot of these people won't be able to get any economic relief for them from an insurance claim. There's no mechanism for recovery to repay them for their loss. It's a tremendous risk for these people."

Medical marijuana has been legal in California since 1996, and in 2016, sales totaled $2.8 billion. Californians voted to approve recreational marijuana last year, and the retail market will open in January 2018. Growers whose crops haven't been burned down are frantically harvesting early, to save the crops should the flames reach their farms and to keep the cannabis from being tainted by the smoke. There are an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 marijuana farms in California, and it's unclear how many have burned down. "Here comes this fire at the worst possible time for them," Peterson said. "I have a lot of friends who are really troubled right now." Catherine Garcia

April 22, 2015

The Big Easy just got a little harder for dedicated smokers: When clocks struck midnight on Wednesday, New Orleans put the kibosh on smoking in bars. The newly enacted ban was met with some annoyance and lots of shrugs, The New York Times reports, and at least one bar passed out nicotine gum to smoking patrons. Some bars and Harrah's casino are suing to overturn the ordinance.

New Orleans isn't quashing all its trademark vices — you can still smoke, and drink alcohol, outside — and tobacco-loving revelers can still go to Vegas, Philadelphia, or Atlanta if they want to smoke in bars. Musicians seem especially pleased by the ban, as The Associated Press captures in the video below. —Peter Weber

April 11, 2015

An FDA advisory panel voted on claims put forward by Swedish Match, a smokeless tobacco manufacturer, on Friday, Time reports. 

The company wants to do away with warning labels on its smokeless tobacco product snus, arguing that snus presents "substantially lower risks to health than cigarettes." The committee split on the question of whether using smokeless tobacco products really is substantially safer than smoking cigarettes; Swedish Match's argument is effectively one of harm reduction, suggesting that the lower level of nicotine in snus provides a relatively safer experience for those who choose to use a tobacco product.

The committee agreed, though, against doing away with Swedish Match's warning label, saying the claims the company put forward do not prove that the product does not pose any health risks.

The FDA does not necessarily have to adopt the advisory committee's findings, but it will use them as a recommendation.  Sarah Eberspacher

October 23, 2014

Starting next year, employees at the second-largest tobacco company in the United States won't be able to smoke inside their offices, conference rooms, hallways, or elevators.

Reynolds American Inc. made the announcement on Wednesday, but all isn't lost for smokers; the new rule won't go into effect until an indoor smoking area is built. Lighting up inside cafeterias and fitness centers and on factory floors is already banned.

"We believe it's the right thing to do and the right time to do it because updating our tobacco use policies will better accommodate both non-smokers and smokers who work in and visit our facilities," spokesman David Howard told The Associated Press. "We're just better aligning our tobacco use policies with the realities of what you’re seeing in society today."

About 18 percent of Reynolds' 5,200 employees smoke, which is in line with the smoking rate of U.S. adults. Catherine Garcia

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