“Gone With the Smoke”—San Francisco Harm Reductionist…


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“gone-with-the-smoke”—san-francisco-harm-reductionist…

Jason Norelli is a harm reduction navigation manager at Glide in San Francisco. I interviewed him for the video above at his office in the Tenderloin, a neighborhood where there is a large concentration of people who use drugs and are unhoused. Jason is a former methamphetamine user and has experienced homelessness.

He started smoking cigarettes around the age of 12. “I grew up in a smoking family, there were several generations of smokers,” he told me. “My mom smoked and everything was timed according to when she had a cigarette. For example she would say, ‘We can go to the playground when I finish my cigarette.’”

About eight years ago, Jason was introduced to vaping in, of all places, an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting. “At the time I was really active in 12-step and a lot of people were vaping in the meetings. Someone let me try their vape and I thought, this tastes great! Then I went to a vape shop and bought one.”

“The ban is depressing because vaping is harm reduction.”

Practicing yoga also helped Jason quit cigarettes. “Some senior yoga teachers said you don’t tell people to stop doing something, the yoga practice itself will encourage them to do it,” he said. “And that is what happened to me.” Jason reports that when he fully switched to vaping, he noticed a huge difference in his ability to breathe and to run a couple of miles on the treadmill without stopping and coughing.

Jason remembers the halcyon days before the e-cigarette ban passed in San Francisco in 2019 and there were plenty of vape shops, including a store called, “Gone With the Smoke.” He loved the personal attention, the camaraderie and the education about vaping products.

“They had a great selection of flavors and you could vape inside… The ban is depressing because vaping is harm reduction,” he said.

It forced to Jason buy vaping products outside the city. “Now I have to take time out of my day to drive across the bridge to buy vapes. I can’t order vape supplies on the internet and have them sent to my house because that’s part of the ban, you can’t have vapes delivered to San Francisco. When I could do that, I was actually saving money.”

Despite the hassles, he’s committed to vaping. 



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