Chad’s Morning Brief: Plastic Bag Bans, Democrats Continue to Target E-Cigs and Vapors, and Other Top Stories
Here is your Morning Brief for the morning of March 27, 2014. Give me your feedback below and tune in to The Chad Hasty Show for these and many more topics from 8:30 to 11am. Remember, you can listen online at KFYO.com or on your iPhone/Android with the radioPup App.
More and more Texas cities are banning or restricting plastic bags. The Dallas City Council voted yesterday to limit the use of plastic bags by imposing a 5-cent per bag charge on retailers according to the Texas Tribune. This is happening while the AG's office is studying whether or not bag bans are legal.
The Dallas ordinance, which the City Council approved by a vote of 8-6, doesn't ban plastic bags outright. Rather, it limits their use by imposing a 5-cent-per-bag charge on retailers, which will receive 10 percent of the revenue. The rest will go to the city to spend on educating the public about the environmental hazards of plastic bags. The ordinance goes into effect Jan. 1, 2015.
Dallas joins nine other Texas cities that have enacted similar ordinances.
“We're trying to keep a cleaner city by putting a ban on the very thing that hangs on fences lines and trees, that's killing our wildlife and fish and clogging up our sewer systems,” said Dallas City Councilman Dwaine Caraway. “It's a predator that is extremely hard to deal with.”
The vote came the last day for cities and groups to submit briefs on bag ordinances to the Texas attorney general's office, which has been asked to determine whether they violate the Texas Health and Safety Code. State Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Canton, wrote a letter earlier this month asking the AG to weigh in on a section of the code that says a municipality may not pass legislative restrictions or charge fees relating to the consumption of a “container or package” for waste management purposes.
The Texas Retailers Association, which opposes the bag ordinances, approached Flynn about writing the letter.
“It sure looks to us that the plain meaning of the statute’s language is that the state meant to stop local governments from adopting ordinances that prohibit or restrict the use of these bags,” Ronnie Volkening, the president and CEO of Texas Retailers Association, said in an interview with The Texas Tribune earlier this month. “If the state Legislature enacted that language, then the cities are in fact engaging in an activity that they should not.”
Supporters of the ordinances say plastic bags harm the environment. The Texas Campaign for the Environment has been one of the most vocal supporters of the ordinances. “We want the attorney general to stay out of this issue altogether,” said Robin Schneider, the group's executive director.
The Texas Municipal League was the first to submit a brief to the attorney general’s office. The brief included a statement from state Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, from 2011 in which he argued for local control over the issue.
“For the state to determine what a city’s problems are or solutions that it may have or may not have is a little bit of an overextension of the Legislature,” Seliger said.
Because the cities are responsible for supplying plastic bags, they should be able to determine if they wish to ban them, he said in an interview.
“They spend much more time as garbage than they do as carriers of groceries anyway,” Seliger added.
The Texas Municipal League argued in its brief that a plastic bag should not be classified as a “container” or a package” — the two words specifically mentioned in the Heath and Safety Code.
“A plastic bag is not a container or a package, but merely the means by which a container or a package is transported,” the brief said.
Volkening said the most environmental position would be to encourage the recycling of plastic bags, not banning their use.
Besides Dallas, six other Texas cities, including San Antonio and Corpus Christi, have recently considered restrictions on plastic bags. Corpus Christi and Austin, whose city council voted in 2012 to ban plastic bags, said on Wednesday that they would submit briefs to the attorney general in support of the ordinances.
Vapors and E-Cigs
Democratic lawmakers just can't stop themselves from regulating things they know nothing about. According to the Daily Caller, seven Senate Democrats are urging the FDA to regulate the sale of vapors and electronic cigarettes.
Dick Durbin of Illinois, Tom Harkin of Iowa, Barbara Boxer of California, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Jeff Merkley of Oregon co-signed a letter asking FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg to ban the e-cigarette industry from marketing and selling their products to children.
“It’s time for the FDA to stop the sale of these candy-flavored poisons to our children,” urged the senators in the letter.
They wrote, “Unlike traditional cigarettes and tobacco products, these novel nicotine products are not subject to federal regulations that prohibit sale to minors, restrict marketing to youth, ban products in candy and fruit flavors, and regulate manufacturing practices and ingredients.”
Durbin and the six other Democrats claimed that e-cigarette businesses are targeting youth. They wrote, “In the absence of federal oversight, these products are taking advantage of the regulatory vacuum to market nicotine products to youth and risk addicting a new generation to nicotine.”
The letter came in response to a report published by The New York Times, arguing that the increased popularity of e-cigarettes were the cause of a recent uptick in nicotine poisonings.
However, a review of all the scientific research done on e-cigarettes by Drexel University professor Igor Burstyn concluded “current data do not indicate that exposures to vapors from contaminants in electronic cigarettes warrant a concern.”
And a growing number of physicians and scientists believe the device could actually have a life-saving impact if it is widely adopted by tobacco smokers as a nicotine substitute.
“Electronic cigarettes and other nicotine-containing devices offer massive potential to improve public health, by providing smokers with a much safer alternative to tobacco,” says the Royal College of Physicians. “They need to be widely available and affordable to smokers.”
The devices are generally viewed as preferable to tobacco cigarettes because although they contain nicotine, they do not have the carcinogens contained in conventional tobacco cigarettes. The lack of tobacco in the devices is also why e-cigarettes are not currently subject to the same federal laws that regulate tobacco products.
But if e-cigarette critics have it their way, the vapor devices will soon fall under the same strict federal mandates that control the tobacco industry.
In February, Durbin, Harkin, Boxer, Blumenthal and Markey introduced the Protecting Children from Electronic Cigarette Advertising Act, which would prohibit the marketing of e-cigarettes to children and teens.
The bill would give the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) the authority to determine what constitutes advertising e-cigarettes to children, and would allow the FTC to coordinate with states attorneys general to enforce the ban.
Places like 180 Vape here in Lubbock already prohibit selling to minors and in fact, they don't want minors in the store. The reason why they have candy and fruit flavors? Adults like those flavors too, not just kids.
Again though we have the big government nannies coming in and trying to regulate a business that they know nothing about.
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