Tag Archives: Government

High Schooler Takes a Stance Against Flavored Tobacco

Ninety percent of adult smokers develop a tobacco addiction as teenagers or earlier. Since 2009, e-cigarettes have become a worrisome gateway to regular smoking. Addressing this dangerous habit early is critical in the journey towards a tobacco-free generation. In 2018, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams officially declared e-cigarette use among youth an epidemic in the United States.  Now is the time to take action.

The fight against smoking is personal. Having grown up in India surrounded by smokers, and losing family members to smoking, my mother taught me the dangers posed by tobacco usage. Her argument was effective since I have never really considered trying a cigarette. And I think their generation did a good job at discouraging cigarette use. When I ask my friends they are likely to express disgust at the idea of using cigarettes, and youth cigarette usage is at an all-time low. Unfortunately, this disgust doesn’t seem to transfer to e-cigarettes, which are seen as cool and hip.

Flavors are a big reason my peers start using e-cigarettes. In fact, 4 out of 5 kids who have used tobacco started with a flavored product. According to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, Juul and other e-cigarettes are addicting a new generation of kids and reversing decades of progress cutting youth tobacco use. The flavors lure them in, and the nicotine keeps them hooked.” I know many classmates and friends who vape. My neighbor’s son is still only in middle school, but he’s already become addicted to e-cigarettes. He started because he saw a chocolate flavored e-cigarette and thought it was fun to try. How bad can something that’s candy-flavored be? And I have a classmate who started vaping because his grandfather tried to quit using e-cigarettes. He tried his vapes. He still smokes cigarettes, and now, he’s addicted. Some of my friends talk about comparing peach and strawberry flavors and which is better. And every high school kid knows about that one bathroom where you can vape in secret. The fact of the matter is, flavored tobacco and exposure to it makes it far more likely for kids to get hooked. And Big Tobacco doesn’t care.

But the CA legislature can make a difference now by putting the lives of youth ahead of the profits of Big Tobacco. As a passionate anti-vaping and anti-tobacco activist, I am pushing the California lawmakers to prioritize youth health by supporting SB793, the bill to ban the sale of flavored tobacco.

 In May 2020, as a National Youth Ambassador representing California for The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, and an American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network Legislative Ambassador I testified in front of the California Senate Health Committee this May, along with CA Lt. Governor Eleni Kounalakis and Stanford professor Dr. Bonnie Halpern-Felsher, urging for a Yes vote.

Senate Bill 793, written by Senator Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), makes it illegal to sell flavored tobacco or tobacco flavor enhancer products. This include tobacco products such as cigarettes including Menthol flavored, cigars, cigarillos, and chewing tobacco, as well as newer products such as e-cigarettes, vape juice, and vaping systems.

Thankfully, the bill was passed and signed by Governor Gavin Newsom after months of advocacy and hard work from young people and adults alike. I was extremely grateful to have participated in the signing process via Zoom. 

Governor Newson signing the legislation over Zoom.

 It’s not easy being a Youth Advocate for quitting tobacco. At the 2020 National Symposium for The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, https://www.tobaccofreekids.org/what-we-do/youth-programs#ambassadors I addressed over 100 youth activists nationwide, sharing details about the harassment and attacks I faced on social media for speaking up against vaping. However, I am not deterred and will continue to find ways to help reduce the spread of tobacco in the communities, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, that affects lungs, placing smokers and vapers at especially higher risk of complications


Aditya Indla is an emerging community leader with Breath California, a non-profit organization and he has spoken in front of Dublin, Hayward, and Pleasanton City councils in support of a flavored tobacco ban. He is working to improve the tobacco retail policies in Union City and Newark as the Co-founder of Project Aegle. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he raised over $10,000 to 3D print PPE for health care workers and was recognized as one of the U.N. Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth’s Leaders who Inspire you to Change the World.

Should the Election Be Postponed in Light of a Pandemic? No!

Should the Presidential Election Be Postponed in Light of a Pandemic? No!

by Mani Subramani

There is absolutely no need to postpone the November 2020 elections on account of the Coronavirus.

Firstly the COVID-19 pandemic is roughly 2 times as virulent in its spread as the common flu and about 20 times more fatal among the elderly and most vulnerable.  So as long as the risk of transmission can be reduced 100 fold, voting should be at least as safe as voting during a normal flu season.  This is not achievable if we do everything business as usual. However, with sufficient social distancing (6 feet) and sanitizing, the transmission rate can be reduced sufficiently to make elections safe.  To avoid long lines at the polling places states can keep voting open early for a full week or encourage mail in ballots or both. Federal government should allocate funds as part of a stimulus or supplemental to cover the additional costs. 

At the time of this writing, we are number three in terms of total number of infections behind China and Italy.  Unfortunately, it would not be surprising if we are number one when you read this.  However, based on the experience of other nations the viral spread should peak in three months or less. In spite of the bungling and scattered response and utter lack of leadership by this administration, thankfully many state governors are acting in a manner that is appropriate to the seriousness of the outbreak.  This should ensure a peak of infections sometime this summer hopefully with a minimal fatality rate like that of Germany or Switzerland.  

Mani Subramani is a veteran of the semiconductor equipment industry.  He enjoys following politics and economics.

This article is part of the monthly Forum Series, where you get eyes on both sides of a hot button issue.

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Should the Presidential Election Be Postponed in Light of a Pandemic? Yes!

by Rameysh Ramdas

In light of the Coronavirus pandemic and the associated economic meltdown, President Trump and Congress must postpone the November 2020 election. Yes, Democrats would loathe giving the President a few more months, but it is the right thing to do in these circumstances. The Constitution does not prohibit this action but says it should come from the states. Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Ohio, Puerto Rico and Rhode Island have postponed their primaries.

While the logistics of conducting campaign rallies will be a challenge, given the restriction of the number of people who can gather, more importantly, this will allow the President, his administration and state leaders to focus on containing the virus and in reviving the economy.

Yes, a postponement is only possible with great difficulty and cannot be done by an executive order. All the states must agree and their legislatures approve the measure. But the cost of the effort is well worth the benefits it brings to the nation and the world at large. And, this has to be done now as in many states, voting starts months earlier. 

Yes, this would have been unthinkable and deplorable in a normal time, but this is a pandemic of epic propositions. A prudent approach would be to have the elected officials on combating this calamity and start reviving the economy and the stock market. I urge the Administration and state legislatures to think outside the box and focus on the epidemic now.

Rameysh Ramdas, a resident of the SF Bay Area, has a keen interest in Politics and Current Events. 

This article is part of the monthly Forum Series, where you get eyes on both sides of a hot button issue.


Image license can be found here.

Should the Election Be Postponed in Light of a Pandemic? Yes!

Should the Presidential Election Be Postponed in Light of a Pandemic? Yes!

by Rameysh Ramdas

In light of the Coronavirus pandemic and the associated economic meltdown, President Trump and Congress must postpone the November 2020 election. Yes, Democrats would loathe giving the President a few more months, but it is the right thing to do in these circumstances. The Constitution does not prohibit this action but says it should come from the states. Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Ohio, Puerto Rico and Rhode Island have postponed their primaries.

While the logistics of conducting campaign rallies will be a challenge, given the restriction of the number of people who can gather, more importantly, this will allow the President, his administration and state leaders to focus on containing the virus and in reviving the economy.

Yes, a postponement is only possible with great difficulty and cannot be done by an executive order. All the states must agree and their legislatures approve the measure. But the cost of the effort is well worth the benefits it brings to the nation and the world at large. And, this has to be done now as in many states, voting starts months earlier. 

Yes, this would have been unthinkable and deplorable in a normal time, but this is a pandemic of epic propositions. A prudent approach would be to have the elected officials on combating this calamity and start reviving the economy and the stock market. I urge the Administration and state legislatures to think outside the box and focus on the epidemic now.

Rameysh Ramdas, a resident of the SF Bay Area, has a keen interest in Politics and Current Events. 

This article is part of the monthly Forum Series, where you get eyes on both sides of a hot button issue.

**************************

Should the Presidential Election Be Postponed in Light of a Pandemic? No!

by Mani Subramani

There is absolutely no need to postpone the November 2020 elections on account of the Coronavirus.

Firstly the COVID-19 pandemic is roughly 2 times as virulent in its spread as the common flu and about 20 times more fatal among the elderly and most vulnerable.  So as long as the risk of transmission can be reduced 100 fold, voting should be at least as safe as voting during a normal flu season.  This is not achievable if we do everything business as usual. However, with sufficient social distancing (6 feet) and sanitizing, the transmission rate can be reduced sufficiently to make elections safe.  To avoid long lines at the polling places states can keep voting open early for a full week or encourage mail in ballots or both. Federal government should allocate funds as part of a stimulus or supplemental to cover the additional costs. 

At the time of this writing, we are number three in terms of total number of infections behind China and Italy.  Unfortunately, it would not be surprising if we are number one when you read this.  However, based on the experience of other nations the viral spread should peak in three months or less. In spite of the bungling and scattered response and utter lack of leadership by this administration, thankfully many state governors are acting in a manner that is appropriate to the seriousness of the outbreak.  This should ensure a peak of infections sometime this summer hopefully with a minimal fatality rate like that of Germany or Switzerland.  

Mani Subramani is a veteran of the semiconductor equipment industry.  He enjoys following politics and economics.

This article is part of the monthly Forum Series, where you get eyes on both sides of a hot button issue.

Why Do I Feel a Kinship With Ash Kalra?

Why do I feel a kinship with Ash Kalra, D-CA 27?

Maybe because we are both Indian, Canadian-born, Bay Area transplants? Though 20 years my senior, Ash Kalra speaks my language. He mirrors my experience, taking a non-traditional path of social justice. 

Not an engineer or a doctor? You are already a deviant. Let’s take it one step further, pursuing career paths that are not lucrative or linear, that of community-based work – perplexing, shameful. These pressures are not unbeknownst to Ash. A UCSB graduate in Communications, Public Defender turned Assemblyman, paying off his law degree takes a backseat to his passion for uplifting others. 

“My whole career has been about reducing suffering” – a poignant sentiment. Kalra has settled on this theme for his life’s work. Serving California’s 27th assembly district, Ash Kalra is the first Indian American to serve in California’s state legislature. 

In his three years in office, he has been prolific, having 27 bills signed. He has fought for affordable, low-income housing and against homelessness as a co-author of SB 50 and AB 330. He is also the Chair of the Labor and Employment Committee for the State Assembly and has championed for Union rights. Kalra takes action to protect the environment, co-sponsoring bills such as the Clean Air Act, Coyote Valley Conservation Program, Deforestation-Free Procurement Act. He has been honored by the ACLU of California as a Civil Liberties Champion- one of five legislators in the Assembly who received a ‘perfect score’ on championing civil liberties issues. 

But I wanted to know more than just his political platform. He is speaking for Indian-Americans on a large scale, does he feel representative of who I am – a San Jose raised, Indian-American, low-income woman? My shoes are small and hard to fill. Is Ash Kalra ready for this responsibility?

Books on a coffee table in Ash Kalra’s office.

After having met him, I would say yes. His work moves beyond just progressive bill measures; he educates Assembly Members and constituents on Indian heritage and history. What I’m finding is that Ash Kalra’s movements transcend just education and are his way of life. 

Ash articulates that growing up Hindu, the very ideals and morals that his parents ingrained in him when he was young, were antithetical to their views about his career pursuits when he was older. 

That hits home. 

Atithi Devo Bhava,” this translates to “Guest is God” and it is a phrase that is thrown around Indian households. Giving back to those around us and foregoing materialism is an inherent part of Hinduism. So why is this, that which becomes second nature, at odds with an inquiry for a career, lifelong happiness, and ultimately success?

Ash gets it. He gets the consistent struggle of being Indian AND American. He may be the role model I’ve been seeking for so long but had a lack of exposure to. He is genuine, well informed, engaged but most importantly, doesn’t shy away from his culture. He redefines the vision of an Indian-American. 

When I asked him about the political responsibility of the Indian-American in the Bay Area, Ash emphasized that “our responsibility is to our community” and that we must remember that as Americans. It can be confusing for immigrants, split between two cultures. We will never feel connected to this country if we don’t become engaged community members, yet, at times we feel disconnected due to the lack of representation. Ash reminds us that civic duty goes beyond being Indian American. And if we never start, we will not conceive the reality we seek. 

Being the first Indian-American in California State Legislature, there are many antiquated archetypes that are projected on him and people that look like him. When I ask him about this, he dispels the myths about Indian model minorities in one statement, “the myth erases those that are struggling”. Indian-Americans are working jobs in the labor sector and they are quickly becoming the highest growing undocumented population in the US. There are many Indians that need people that look like them, to give them a voice. To shed light on their misgivings. To create policy that is inclusive of them. 

I asked him one last question before I left, and this one is for my SVC- Palo Alto Youth and Government kids who were in Sacramento just a few weeks before, taking over the Capitol building, sitting in the very seat that Ash Kalra was in a day before: Is cereal a soup? 

Kalra gives me a hard NO. 

I disagree. 

Though we align on almost all things, I guess even we can have our differences. A gentle reminder and a sentiment Ash mentions earlier, we need to be inclusive of people that may seem unlike us. 

Ash Kalra is the now, forging the path for people like me. 

He keeps moving but not away from his community or upbringing. He can very easily be found eating at Loving Hut, listening to Iron Maiden, before heading to a walk for candidates supporting the Labor Council. 

Ash Kalra is up for re-election this Presidential Primaries cycle on March 3, 2020. He represents California’s 27th State Assembly district which encompasses Downtown San Jose, East San Jose, and parts of Southeast San Jose. Kalra has served one term of his two-term limit as State Assemblyman. To learn more about him and his platform, check out his site and his voting record.


Srishti Prabha is the current Assistant Editor at India Currents and has worked in low income/affordable housing as an advocate for women and people of color. She is passionate about diversifying spaces, preserving culture, and removing barriers to equity.

Governor Newsom Announces Quarterly “On the Record” Column to Reach Diverse Communities

SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom today announced a historic media collaboration with California Black Media, Ethnic Media Services, ImpreMedia, Univision, and LGBTQ outlets Bay Area Reporter and the Los Angeles Blade to contribute an original quarterly column on timely public policy issues impacting Californians across the state. The quarterly “On the Record with Gavin Newsom” column will be translated into at least six languages and distributed quarterly starting in December. Each column will be posted for public access on the Governor’s website and published online or in print in the over 50 participating media outlets. Any media outlet is welcome to pull the column from the Governor’s website to publish in their outlet.

“California is proud to be the most diverse state in the world’s most diverse democracy,” said Governor Newsom. “All Californians deserve to know that their government is working for them, especially in rural and Inland communities that have long felt that they do not truly have a voice in Sacramento. We look forward to collaborating with our media partners—and inviting others who might be interested in partnering—to bring our California for All message to communities across our state.”

This announcement builds on Governor Newsom’s commitment to working with community, ethnic and diverse media outlets. Throughout his first year in office, the Governor and his senior staff have participated in several telebriefing media calls and meetings on a host of issues ranging from the death penalty to public charge to the 2020 Census.

“The idea for the column grew out of a two year effort by representatives of Black, Latino, Asian and Native media to educate state legislators and decision makers about the sector’s role and to forge a multi-ethnic media advocacy voice,” said Sandy Close who directs Ethnic Media Services, a nonprofit media consulting organization.

Regina Brown Wilson, director of California Black Media, says the column “couldn’t come at a more critical time. In this information era dominated by high tech platforms, Governor Newsom is sending an important signal that government needs high touch communicators embedded in and trusted by their local communities.”

Gabriel Lerner, veteran editor of ImpreMedia’s La Opinion, underscored the need for consistent outreach by the Governor as an antidote to the growing fear and distrust of government among immigrant audiences in the wake of Trump administration anti-immigrant measures. “Every new announcement from the White House creates a relentless campaign of terror. The column is one small but important counter-voice that all immigrants need to hear,” Lerner said.

“Establishing a direct and consistent way of communication with the people of California is essential to have an informed, engaged, and prosperous community,” said Marco Flores, Vice President of News for Univision Los Angeles.

Francis Espiritu, longtime publisher of Philippine News Today, a national Filipino news outlet headquartered in the Bay Area, was one of numerous Asian media leaders who joined the collaborative effort. He says he is eager to run the column to inform audiences about the Governor’s policy objectives and to reassure them that “the state has our back.”

Native media are also a key part of the collaboration. Joe Orozco, who directs the Hoopa reservation based KIDE radio in northern Eureka, says the isolation and diversity of tribal lands makes communications an even greater challenge. He hopes the column represents an effort to make communication two-way. “We want to tell our story as well,” said Orozco.

The partnership includes the LGBTQ publications Bay Area Reporter and Los Angeles Blade.

“The Bay Area Reporter looks forward to the quarterly columns by Governor Gavin Newsom. As one of the oldest LGBT newspapers in the country, we think our readers will enjoy learning about issues the governor writes about. California is in a state of constant change, and we believe our readers will be interested to hear directly from San Francisco’s former mayor through his columns on how he plans to address myriad issues statewide,” said Cynthia Laird, News Editor with the Bay Area Reporter.