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California Editorial Rdp

September 4, 2019

Sept. 4

The Press Democrat on effects of vaping and need for independent research:

Electronic cigarettes are often touted as a safer alternative to smoking, delivering less tar and toxic chemicals and maybe even weaning people from a potentially deadly habit.

But a nationwide outbreak of a potentially deadly respiratory disease is the latest evidence that the growing popularity of these devices — especially among teenagers — has outpaced research into the health risks and side effects of vaping.

Investigators from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are scrutinizing more than 200 cases of severe lung illness associated with e-cigarettes in 25 states, including 36 in California, reported over the past three months. Most of the victims are teenagers or young adults. One vaping-related death has been confirmed in Illinois, and a Pennsylvania teenager is in a medically induced coma.

Symptoms include trouble breathing, a painful cough, vomiting, nausea, fever, fatigue and diarrhea. Doctors have been unable to find a bacterial or viral source for the disease. There is one commonality: Victims reported vaping nicotine products, cannabis or chemicals derived from cannabis.

Sonoma County has yet to have a reported case, but public health officials are seeking information from doctors — and urging people to protect themselves.

“As we learn more about the cause of these injuries, I urge individuals to limit their use of vaping products or quit using them altogether,” said Dr. Celeste Philip, the county’s public health officer. That’s sound advice.

Vaping, like smoking, is a personal choice — for adults. But even before the recent outbreak, there was ample evidence of widespread use by minors, even here in California, where a state law that took effect in 2016 prohibits the sale of e-cigarettes and other vaping products to anyone under 21.

In a 2017 survey of California high school students, 17.3% said they had vaped in the previous 30 days. Use appears to be even higher in Sonoma County. In 2018, more than 25% of the county’s 11th graders reported vaping on a regular basis — a 7% increase from 2016.

Industry representatives insist they don’t market their products to minors, but advertising techniques and the prevalence of sweet and fruity flavors suggests otherwise.

They say their products are safe, but they have fought U.S. Food and Drug Administration efforts to review them for safety before they are sold to the public. As for the outbreak, the American Vaping Association blames it on black market products. But there’s no proof of that claim.

E-cigarettes, like traditional tobacco products, are nicotine delivery devices, and nicotine is addictive and can have damaging effects on developing brains and cardiovascular systems. Parents need to be aware of the hazards and alert to possible use by their children, now more than ever.

Americans have learned the hard way about the dangers of smoking and, more recently, opioid use. They shouldn’t settle for assurances from e-cigarette manufacturers. They deserve independent scientific assessments of vaping products that may and may not be any safer than tobacco.


Sept. 3

The San Diego Union-Tribune on investigation into Santa Cruz boat fire incident:

Monday morning’s predawn tragedy just off Santa Cruz Island — a below-deck fire on the Conception charter dive boat that left 34 people dead or missing and presumed dead — has devastated Southern California’s close-knit diving community.

The Conception, built in 1981 and owned by Santa Barbara-based Truth Aquatics, had a strong reputation and reportedly had all the required firefighting equipment upon its last inspection. According to California Diving News, owner Glen Fritzler was honored for his role in promoting scuba diving at an industry ceremony in Long Beach in May, and Fritzler estimated at the time that Conception and his two other boats have hosted more than 450,000 divers. Given this history, it’s possible that the nightmarish blaze took such a heavy toll because by the time it woke up sleeping divers, it had already blocked the ship’s stairwell and escape hatch.

Nonetheless, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, and others are right in saying there should be an immediate, thorough investigation of the disaster, and that it should involve the Coast Guard, the National Transportation Safety Board and the FBI. Were the Conception’s fire-suppression system and fire extinguishers working properly? Why did five of the boat’s six crew members — but none of the passengers — escape? Was the crew properly trained? Such questions demand answers.

In the meantime, boat owners, operators and workers in San Diego and throughout the nation should take a hard look at their boats, equipment and training. So should their customers. After Monday’s calamity, no one should take anything for granted when it comes to boat safety.


Sept. 2

The Mercury News on implications of gig worker debate and legislation:

Negotiations over the future of gig-economy workers have dragged in legacy professions and now are threatening the future of newspaper deliveries in California.

The showdown in the state Capitol over the employment status of gig workers has profound implications for companies such as Lyft, Uber, DoorDash and Postmates. But while those companies and labor leaders do battle, the outcome could seriously affect industries such as insurance, hairstyling, real estate, medicine and, yes, newspapers.

This wasn’t our fight originally. Our industry has been struggling, but we are making strides to ensure our future and don’t need setbacks that only make it harder. All we ask is that state lawmakers do us no harm — that, to help ensure the survival of local journalism, they let us continue operating under the same rules that have governed us for more than 40 years.

The state battle centers around when a worker is an independent contractor or a company employee. The line seemed pretty clear until the state Supreme Court issued its sweeping Dynamex ruling last year that reset the boundaries. Then, this year, lawmakers went to work drafting legislation, Assembly Bill 5, that determines which industries, and which jobs, would be affected by the court ruling.

The big debate is over whether gig workers, who can choose which and how many hours they work, are independent contractors or company employees with the full load of associated benefits. The governor has urged the two sides to strike a compromise, but a deal thus far has been elusive.

Meanwhile, we in newspapers are left standing in the line of uncertainty. The primary concern for us is the designation for our carriers, the people who deliver the papers to your home.

Carriers in California are essentially small, part-time businesses. Long-established state regulations ensure newspaper carriers have the freedom of independent contractors, that they can pick their routes and negotiate their rates.

Carriers often deliver for more than one newspaper. So classifying them as employees of a single publication would limit their opportunities, undermine the distribution efficiencies and drive up the cost of newspaper delivery to levels that are unsustainable for the industry and too pricey for customers.

While we are building our online platforms, it’s important to recognize that a significant segment of our customers still prefer to hold a daily newspaper in their hands. They either don’t have a computer or smart phone or they don’t want to depend on it to get their news. They appreciate the value of local daily professional journalism.

The carrier system has worked for decades delivering their morning paper. It makes little sense to undermine it now. Losing carriers would not only cost jobs, it would do lasting harm to already-struggling newspapers that provide a critical public service.

While lawmakers debate the future of the gig economy, they shouldn’t cripple journalism and their constituents’ access to a free press.

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