San Francisco has banned the sale of e-cigarettes like Juul, with the Board of Supervisors voting unanimously to approve the ordinance on Tuesday. It’s the first city to implement such a ban.
E-cigarettes are battery operated, converting flavored liquid nicotine into a vapor inhaled by the user. Juul, which is headquartered in San Francisco, has been making headlines after its popularity among teenagers forced it to shutter its social media presence late last year while the FDA investigated concerns that it was promoting the underage use of tobacco products.
“We spent the ’90s battling Big Tobacco. And now we see its new form through e-cigarettes,” Supervisor Shamann Walton said Tuesday afternoon, according to the San Francisco Examiner. “I am not going to put profits of Big Tobacco over the health of our children and our young people.”
The ordinance — Health Code – Restricting the Sale, Manufacture, and Distribution of Tobacco Products, Including Electronic Cigarettes — was introduced in Mar. 2019. It prohibits the sale of of e-cigarettes that require but have not received FDA approval for marketing.
The ban will create a “black market” for vapes, a Juul Labs spokesperson told CNET in an emailed statement. Regulation rather than prohibition would be more effective, he said.
“This full prohibition will drive former adult smokers who successfully switched to vapor products back to deadly cigarettes,” Ted Kwong, a Juul Labs spokesperson, told CNET in an emailed statement. “In San Francisco, we are supporting efforts going forward to enact new strict regulation and enforcement.”
Regulations could include mandatory electronic ID scanning to verify age, restricting bulk purchasing to prevent third-party onselling of vapes, city permits for online vape retailers and marketing restrictions, Juul suggested.
The ordinance passing follows the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids earlier Tuesday tweeting a poster accusing Juul of “luring” children to use its products by offering flavors like mango and mint.
“Juul enticed kids with sweet flavors like mango, creme and mint, then hooked them with a strong nicotine hit,” the poster says. “Last year, teen e-cigarette use spiked 78%. It’s an epidemic.”
Kwong said Juul has already taken “aggressive actions” to prevent underage purchasing of its products, like online age verification and its cease-sale on non-tobacco and non-menthol flavored Juul pods across the nation last year. He also pointed to Juul shutting down its Facebook and Instagram accounts.
The ordinance was also opposed by corner store owners, according to the San Francisco Examiner, with the Small Business Commission arguing it would cost $70 million in sales for the 738 business that sell vapes in San Francsico.
The Board of Supervisors didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, but CNET sister site CBS News said the ordinance now awaits Mayor London Breed’s signature and will take effect six months after that.
Offending retailers could be fined $1,000.
“San Francisco has never been afraid to lead,” City Attorney Dennis Herrera said. “Youth vaping is an epidemic. If the federal government is not going to act to protect our kids, San Francisco will.”
San Francisco was also the first city to ban its police officers from using facial recognition technology in May, citing a breach of citizens’ civil liberties.
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