Two new cigarettes, now authorized for sale

This week the FDA sent out a press release boasting that its Center for Tobacco Products has finally issued a few decisions on new tobacco products:

For the first time since the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009 gave the U.S. Food and Drug Administration the authority to regulate tobacco products, the agency has authorized the marketing of two new tobacco products and denied the marketing of four others through the substantial equivalence (SE) pathway. […]

“Today’s historic announcement marks an important step toward the FDA’s goal of reducing preventable disease and death caused by tobacco,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. “The FDA has unprecedented responsibility to protect public health by not allowing new tobacco products under FDA’s authority to come to market without FDA review.”

To put this into context, when I wrote about the FDA in March the agency had received about 3,500 new product applications. The most reasonable interpretation of the law giving the agency authority over tobacco implies that these reviews should take only 90 days, and certainly no more than 180, yet some of these have languished in a bureaucratic quagmire for years. Issuing only six decisions since 2009, with more than 100 employees at work reviewing them, is hardly an accomplishment worthy of praise.

(If you’re wondering, Hestia Tobacco, the brand I profiled for The Atlantic, remains tied up in the review process with no end in sight.)

It’s also worth emphasizing what these approvals don’t mean. They don’t mean that these two new cigarettes are any safer than products already on the market, only that they don’t raise any new questions of health. In other words, they’re just as lethal — though no more so, we are told to believe — as other cigarettes. New cigarettes like Hestia, which by any sensible standard also raise no new questions of public health, continue to be blocked. It’s difficult to see what good is accomplished by requiring them to go through this lengthy approval process.

And in the midst of this, the future of e-cigarettes remains unclear. As I explained at The Umlaut this week, this product that is indisputably safer than real cigarettes may soon fall under the same heavy-handed regulation that has brought the tobacco industry to a standstill. If that happens, the FDA will have even less to brag about that it does today.


2012: Year of the Bone Luge

In last year’s miscellaneous year-end post, I predicted that 2012 would be the Year of the Bone Luge. And boy, was it ever. The strange, fun, silly, messy drinking ritual expanded beyond its Portland roots to travel the world this year, culminating with a Bone Luge on national TV from none other than Anthony Bourdain. Said Bourdain of the luge, “I am aware of this practice by the way. It is extremely antisocial and against all standards of decency, so we should probably do it.”

Not everyone embraced the luge so happily. As Gothamist described it, Bone Luge is “the new drinking fad food lovers love to hate.” A look back at the year in luging:

The Bad

In their year end round up of drinking, two of the four writers at Food Republic name the Bone Luge the “worst trend of 2012.

“Food writers of America: Let’s all stop this bone luge thing before it starts shall we? Show of hands?” tweeted food and drink writer Jordana Rothman upon learning of the trend, joined in by CNN Eatocracy editor Kat Kinsman.

Anna Brones was skeptical, though I think she may come around: “When someone offers you some bone marrow and tequila, feel good about saying no.”

“It was one of those cocktail microtrends that seemed somehow dated and irritating within days after I first learned about it — even while it sounded kind of alluring,” concedes Cocktails & Cologne.

Sam Sifton, national editor at The New York Times, would totally do it: “This is a violation. I mean, to be clear, I would totally do it. But it’s still a violation.”

The Good

Tasting Table was ahead of the curve: “Odd? Most definitely. Delicious? Absolutely. […] This is one downward spiral we heartily sanction.”

Andre Darlington knows what’s up: “… bone luging has been fueled by the need to bring humor to a craft cocktail movement has been in danger of collapsing under its own weight. It was time to bring fun back, and the bone luge has offered the perfect blend of foodiness and silliness.” He even went on to host a Bone Luge Brunch!

“In my limited experience, ‘the bone luge’ lends an epic quality to an otherwise ordinary afternoon,” says Atlantic writer Conor Friedersdorf.

Could Bone Luge actually be good for you? Sort of, writes Elizabeth Nolan Brown: “The bone luge may remain a novelty, but it sounds like there are some good reasons to consider adding more bone marrow or bone broth to your diet, if you’re into that sort of thing.”

Hanna Neuschwander of Portland Monthly is on board: “The marrow didn’t overwhelm the burnt caramel flavor of the sherry, and together, they were surprisingly delicious.”

The Oklahoman brings a bone marrow virgin to Ludivine, where they endorse the pairing: “When you’re done, you can take a ride on the bone luge, which consists of pouring a half-ounce of rye whiskey and a half-ounce of sherry down the empty canal and into your mouth. Rushing down the canal, the spirits pick up salt and residue from the roasted bones for a satisfying finish to the experience.”

Wayne Curtis compares the Bone Luge to a few other fads and gives the advantage, mostly, to Bone Luge.

The Bone Luge must be a refined practice if Wine Enthusiast is willing to cover it.

The Bone Luge and Tebowing meet at Euclid Hall in Denver, Colorado.

Angus Winchester brings the Bone Luge to Moscow and St. Petersburg: “…it’s a Primal thing… hunter and gather meets drinker.”

The Drink Nation visits Portland and gives the luge its seal of approval. (Also: Where to luge in Portland.)

Look ma, I’m on TV!

The Pescetarian

Crab leg luge with late harvest riesling.

Halibut spine luge at Riffle in Portland.

The Vegetarian

Cucumber Luge: “Vegetarians want to drink booze out of random vessels, too.”

Tofu luges were spotted in Vancouver, Canada and in the home of spirits writer Camper English.

The Future

Bone Luge seems in no danger of fading away. Embrace the bone. Take the luge to a restaurant near you.


Madison food writer Lindsay Christians gives Bone Luge the nod in her Best of 2012 list: “Madison’s brush with the bone luge was brief, but highly entertaining. At a brunch held at L’Etoile, we got fancied up to scoop the marrow ‘meat butter’ out of a couple of bones, then poured sherry down the chute. It was neither attractive, clean nor polite, but my fellow bone lugers will back me up when I insist: it tasted great.”


Brewing Up Cocktails at Tales 2012

totc2012After multiple stops along the West Coast from San Francisco to Vancouver, Canada, Brewing Up Cocktails is finally heading East. Ezra Johnson-Greenough and I are taking the show on the road to New Orleans for Tales of the Cocktail 2012. We’re teaming up with El Dorado Rum and Drambuie for a Spirited Dinner at Emeril’s Delmonico Steakhouse featuring four original beer cocktails. Chef Spencer Minch has put together a great menu to pair with the drinks. Here’s the official description and menu:

Brewing Up Cocktails

Craft cocktails and craft beer meet in the same glass in this spirited dinner focused on beer cocktails. From punches to sours to flips, beer is working its way onto cocktail menus across the country. Jacob Grier and Ezra Johnson-Greenough, co-founders of Portland, Oregon’s Brewing Up Cocktails events group, team up with El Dorado rum and Drambuie for this sudsy occasion at Emeril’s Delmonico Steakhouse.

First Course
Mint-Ginger Grilled Gulf Shrimp Romaine and Arugula, Toasted Almond, Pineapple-Mango Vin
Paired with
Mai Ta-IPA — El Dorado Silver rum, El Dorado 8 year rum, lime, IPA, B. G. Reynold’s orgeat, Combier

Second Course
Orange-Honey Glazed Moulard Duck Breast Spiced Cous Cous, Pinenuts, Currants
Paired with
Wit-ty Flip — Drambuie, lemon, orange bitters, allspice dram, whole egg, witbier

Third Course
Jerk Spiced Pork Roast, Coconut rice, Tostones, Molho Vin
Paired with
Sierra Highlands — Drambuie 15, framboise lambic syrup, lemon, Kellerweis

Fourth Course
Ginger Panna Cotta, Carmelized Pineapple, Macadamia Nut Crunch, Star Anise-Raw Suger Sauce
Paired with
Chocolate Stout Flip — El Dorado 15 year rum, Averna, Angostura bitters, whole egg, chocolate stout

The dinner will be held on Thursday, July 26, during Tales of the Cocktail. Tickets are $100 and can be reserved by calling (504) 525-4937.


Links for 8/31/10

Conor Friedersdorf laments this country’s bevy of pointless alcohol laws: “But it offends my notion of the freedom due every man and woman that I cannot sip a single cold beer or craft cocktail as I walk down the beach with my girlfriend, enjoying the West Coast sunset.”

Speaking of which, the AP has picked up on the debate over Washington’s privatization initiatives:

Opponents argue that I-1100 goes too far by eliminating the three-tier system — producers, distributors and retailers — basically allowing Costco to cut out the middle man distributor.

“It destroys the entire system,” said Craig Wolf, president and CEO of Washington, D.C.-based Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America, which is opposed to I-1100 but has taken no stand on the competing Initiative 1105, which keeps the tier system in place. […]

National wholesaler and liquor distributor groups are closely watching the outcome of the campaign, with some saying that it could be the first step for Costco to try and change the system in other states.

Yes, let us hope so! [Via Tom Wark.]

People seem to be making too much of Bjorn Lomborg’s “reversal” on climate change. While the Copenhagen Consensus’s recommended expenditure is larger than before, his position in favor of research and mitigation instead of immediate, massive carbon reductions is nothing new. (His previous book, Cool It, recommended a $2/ton carbon tax and a $25 billion per year expenditure on alternative energy R&D.)

Are publishers still useful for authors? Paul Carr argues that they are.

Video of the day: on Weed, Wheat, and ObamaCare. A good summary of how interpretation of the Commerce Clause has evolved.

The Wall Street Journal profiles GMU economist Peter Boettke, “the intellectual standard-bearer for the Austrian school of economics.”

The woman gracing the cover of Vampire Weekend’s “Contra” is none too happy with her appearance there.


Upper Peninsula blog break

Mich 002

I leave this morning for my annual trip to the Michigan Upper Peninsula, so blogging may be light for the next few days. Life on the island is more conducive to reading words printed on paper than on computer screens; the internet connection goes down, the power goes out, or my laptop interferes with the TV reception thanks to our ancient electrical wiring. Plus I’ll be busy with essential chores like burning wood, hauling wood to the fire pit, chopping wood so we can burn it, etc. Or maybe I’ll be sailing, playing tennis, or gazing up at the clear northern sky rather than spending time online. I’ll try to get a few posts up, but either way I’ll be back in Portland and on the regular schedule by Wednesday.

In the meantime, here are few photos from the Les Cheneaux Islands Antique Wooden Boat Show, one of the largest in the country. Wooden boats are a way of life in the UP. Daily use has our own boat, The Kid, short of show quality, but there’s nothing like cruising along the channel in it or mastering the art of maneuvering the unwieldy thing into the boat house. Every year the family talks about trading it in for a more practical fiberglass boat and every year we keep it. I hope we always do.

The boat show usually takes place after I leave, but during last year’s period of being unemployed and driving across America I was able to stay long enough to see it. The pictures are below. My photos aren’t that great, but the boats are beautiful.

Mich 096

Continue reading “Upper Peninsula blog break”


If you try to strip I’ll tax the teat

As state tobacco taxes dry up (and they will dwindle even more after SCHIP’s federal taxes take effect), governments are getting creative to raise new revenue. They’re taking on the one group who might be an even easier target than smokers: consumers of pornography and other sex products:

In Washington state, a half-dozen cash-strapped legislators recently endorsed a huge sales tax increase on explicit movies, magazines and other sex-themed products.

New York officials recently acknowledged that Gov. David Paterson’s proposed “iPod tax” on Internet downloads also would apply to online porn purchases, along with tamer diversions such as pop music and computer software.

And in Texas, state lawyers are fighting to preserve the “pole tax,” a $5 cover charge on strip clubs that’s being challenged by business owners.

In the past five years, lawmakers from Tennessee to Kansas to California have pitched special taxes on porn, escort services, exotic dance clubs and other adult businesses. A U.S. senator even toyed with the idea of an Internet porn tax on the federal level.

Florida is getting in on the act too. Fortunately many of these proposals will be blocked by First Amendment challenges, but that won’t stop lawmakers from trying.

In sort of related news, a recent study finds that conservative states are the biggest consumers of (paid) online pornography.


Atheism roundtable

Given recent blogging, I’m looking forward to this AFF event:

On Wednesday, October 24, AFF will host a roundtable on atheism. Though historically disorganized and decreasingly popular on the national political scene, fundamentalist Christianity has retained enough force to attract a powerful new salvo of criticism. Some charge that what Andrew Sullivan calls ‘Christianism’ has collapsed the wall between faith and government, harming both. Others seek to do away with religion entirely. Figures arrayed across both science and the humanities, like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, have published a wave of bestsellers making the atheist pitch to the masses. But instead of surrender, this diligent barrage has prompted an equally diligent counterattack. With western civilization at yet another moment of apparent peril, internecine cultural conflict could needlessly provoke another paralyzing crisis. To the contrary, such conflict may prove precisely the west’s enduring strength. Regardless, when cultural combatants go on offense, we judge them on the merits in those terms. How does what Peter Berkowitz calls the New New Atheism fare in that regard — harshly dogmatic or valuably reasonable?

Joining us to discuss these issues are Ross Douthat of the Atlantic Monthly, Will Wilkinson of the Cato Institute, Michael Brendan Dougherty of The American Conservative, and Keith Pavlischek of Ethics and Public Policy Center. James Poulos will moderate. The event will take place at the Fund for American Studies, 1706 New Hampshire Avenue, NW, near Dupont Circle. Drinks at 6:30; Roundtable begins at 7:00. Roundtables are free for members, $5 for non-members. So join today! Please RSVP to Kathleen O’Hearn at


What’s holding back the DC coffee scene?

In a late night post he later regrets, Ezra Klein wonders why DC has such a dearth of good coffee shops:

Cities like Portland and Seattle are trying to create a livable city to retain and attract a certain type of resident. Namely, educated, young, white people. Portland’s 78% white, Seattle’s a bit under 70%. So you structure the city thus that there’s lots of educated white people bait, including cafes, bookstores, wireless internet spots, bike trails, etc.

DC, by contrast, has a lot of white people working in it, but is actually only 39% white, and has a city government that does not derive primary political support from transient white voters. So the character of the city actually does more to represent its inhabitants. Which seems rational. Moreover, the white people there basically have to be there. You don’t move to DC because it’s awesome, you move because it’s where your work is. So there’s little need to construct an affirmative agenda to attract residents.

Race issues aside, I agree with Megan McArdle that it’s weird to look to the city government for an explanation of the character of the city. (Unless we’re talking about the licensing issues that plague small business owners, which as far as I know are as equally a pain in the ass here and in the Northwest.)

But Ezra does have a point. Why are there so few good coffee shops in this city? I link it to three reasons:

1) History is the big one. As with wine, craft brewing, spirits, and seasonal cuisine, the West Coast was way ahead of the East when it came to great coffee. Sure, espresso bars were initially successful in New York in the 50s, but it was Peet’s in Berkeley that led the way on artisinal, single origin roasting. And of course Starbucks and the Seattle style followed later, along with lots of smaller, high-end roasters and obsessive espresso tinkerers. When it comes to building a customer base, Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco have a huge head start over DC.

2) The same applies for the labor force. I can attest from experience as a trainer in two DC coffee shops that finding talented baristas is difficult here. In the Northwest you’ve got a lot more people who know their way around an espresso machine.

Perhaps even more importantly, coffee shop jobs get more respect in the Northwest. Whenever I would be asked the inevitable “What do you do?” question at DC happy hours, “And what do you really want to do?” would almost always follow my response that I worked as a barista. The idea that I actually desired to get up early and make espresso confounded a lot of people. Coffee jobs here tend to be necessary or transitory, rarely a long-term aspiration. This makes it difficult and expensive to train employees. Advantage: Starbucks and its superautomatic push-button espresso machines.

3) Finally, and this is more speculative, but DC’s Metro system strikes me as being very good at shuffling people from the suburbs and residential parts of the city to the work-oriented core and to a few social hot spots, but not so good at encouraging long stretches of mixed use neighborhoods. The result is that retail space near Metro stops is very expensive while the less pedestrian friendly, less accessible parts of town are more in the budget of a startup indie coffee shop. Given the importance of foot traffic to a cafe, advantage once again goes to the hyper-efficient Starbucks or to the lunch-oriented Cosi. I don’t have numbers to back this up, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the distribution of rents is flatter in the Northwest.

The good news is that things are rapidly getting better here. There are many better options now than there were four years ago, Counter Culture Coffee is spreading the gospel through its new DC training center, and there a few other exciting shops in the pipeline. Consumers’ tastes are evolving and the market is responding.

This is also a good time to plug Big Bear, the new Bloomingdale cafe that’s taking great coffee into an underserved neighborhood (previously reviewed here). DC bohemians looking for an off the beaten track coffee shop should check it out.


Of interest while I was away

James Hoffmann triumphs in Tokyo to become the first English winner of the World Barista Championship. Congratulations, James!

Also in Japan, an appearance of miracle fruit in the dessert course at a restaurant practicing molecular gastronomy.

Edmonton coffee shop owner Antonio Bilotta eliminates disposable cups.

David Boaz picks apart media bias in the CAFE standards debate.

German entrepreneur wants to bring smoking back to the luxury skies.

Jonathan Forester discusses pear liqueur.

Houston icon and my childhood favorite TV reporter Marvin Zindler dies.

DC Metro may cut off late night weekend service.


Weird products I sort of want

Made for Manhattans

According to designer Josh Owen, “The design of the Aluminum Cube Jigger evolved from an experiment to compress the six most common liquid measures used to mix alcoholic drinks, into the smallest possible dispenser. The form was inspired by traditional box-shaped, Japanese sake cups, from which sake is sipped from the corners.”

For practicality, I’m not sure this can beat the OXO mini angled measuring cups (plastic or steel). They’re smaller, cheaper, and can be used without ever touching the rim with finger or table. But still, I love the design of this thing. Maybe for the home bar?

Made for DC

These five-toed shoes promise to act as a protective second skin. I really like the idea of being re-engaged with the feel of the ground beneath one’s feet. They seem great for the outdoors, but harder to pull off in DC. I’m tempted anyway.

[Hat tips to Better Living Through Design and BoingBoing.]