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San Francisco Bans E-Cigarettes

July 29, 2019
By Rocco Cimino

San Francisco has become the first city in the country to ban the sale and distribution of e-cigarettes.

The city’s Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to amend the Health Code restricting tobacco products to include e-cigarettes, in a self-described effort to “curb the epidemic of youth vaping.” London Breed signed the ordinance, which will go into effect in early 2020. Violators could face up to a $1,000 fine plus prosecuting fees.

San Francisco is home to Juul Labs, the nation’s biggest producer of e-cigarettes. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given Juul Labs until 2022 to provide data proving the benefits of its products. Smokers use e-cigarettes as an alternative to combustible cigarettes, which are more harmful to health.

“The effective prohibition will drive former adult smokers who successfully transitioned to vapor products back to combustible cigarettes, deny current adult smokers the opportunity to move off combustible use altogether, and create a thriving black market instead of addressing the actual causes of underage access and use,” stated Juul spokesman Ted Kwong in a press release.

‘Targeting Our Kids’

The ordinance states the motivation behind the ban is “the dramatic surge in youth electronic cigarette use (vaping).”

The ordinance states, “if current trends continue, six million more youth in the United States will begin using e-cigarettes between now and then. Until such time as the FDA fulfills its statutory duty to conduct premarket reviews of new tobacco products, a generation of young people will become addicted to tobacco.” 

"There is so much we don't know about the health impacts of these products, but we do know that e-cigarette companies are targeting our kids in their advertising and getting them hooked on addictive nicotine products,” said Breed in a press release.

Warns Policy Could Backfire

Lindsey Stroud, the host of “Voices of Vapers,” a podcast produced by The Heartland Institute, which publishes Health Care News, says efforts to influence teen behavior can backfire.

“Hawaii, the first state to increase the age to purchase tobacco and vaping products to 21, saw vaping among middle schoolers increase by over 70 percent in the year following the age restriction,” said Stroud.

“Pennsylvania’s 40 percent wholesale tax, enacted more as a revenue-generating measure rather than an effort to curb youth e-cigarette use, saw vaping among middle schoolers and high schoolers increase after the tax was enacted. Notably, use of nicotine in vaping devices increased.”

Stroud says compounding matters is the FDA’s “flipflopping” from the firm position it held on combustible cigarettes years ago to how it regards e-cigarettes today.

“The United States relied on the Royal College of Physicians for their own 1964 Surgeon General Report on smoking yet are ignoring the same organization’s 2016 report which found the use of e-cigarettes ‘unlikely to exceed 5% of the harm caused by smoking,’” said Stroud. “In 2015, Public Health England declared e-cigarettes to be 95 percent safer than combustible cigarettes and reiterated that statement in late 2018.”

Rocco Cimino (rocco.j.cimino@gmail.com) writes from Washington, D.C.