San Francisco becomes first U.S. city to ban e-cigarette sales

By Nicholas Sakelaris
San Francisco's ban will take effect in January. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
San Francisco's ban will take effect in January. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

June 26 (UPI) -- San Francisco banned the sale of electronic cigarettes late Tuesday, becoming the first U.S. city to do so.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to eliminate the sale of e-cigarettes with a final vote Tuesday night. The goal is to curb underage "vaping" and address concerns about teenagers becoming addicted to nicotine. A Food and Drug Administration study last year estimated more than 3.6 million middle and high school students had used e-cigarettes in a one-month period.


The ban will go into effect Jan. 1 and will last at least until the FDA reviews the safety of e-cigarettes, which could take another three years.

San Francisco is home to Juul Labs, one of the largest U.S. e-cigarette makers. The company spent $50,000 on a campaign to get a vaping initiative on the November ballot that would regulate, but not ban, the products. The petition initiative could supersede the city ordinance if it gets on the ballot and is approved by voters this fall.

"It protects [e-cigarettes] from further regulation, at least by the elected representatives in the city," said Andrew Twinamatsiko, an attorney at the Public Health Law Center at Mitchell Hamline School of Law. "It has bad public health consequences for citizens in San Francisco because it'll remove that aspect of regulation from the board."


Juul spokesman Ted Kwong said the initiative, however, would only preclude future regulation if a total ban was involved.

"This initiative would enact new, stronger and comprehensive regulations for vapor products in San Francisco on top of existing law," he said in a statement to UPI. "It would not affect or weaken existing laws that do not conflict with the initiative. ... It only supersedes the proposed ordinance and prevents the full prohibition of vapor products."

The company has an online age verification process to stop online sales to minors. It's also stopped selling non-tobacco- and non-menthol-based flavored products in San Francisco.

"This full prohibition will drive former adults smokers who successfully switched to vapor products back to deadly cigarettes, deny the opportunity to switch for current adult smokers and create a thriving black market instead of addressing the actual causes of underage access and use," Kwong said in a statement.

Doctors have warned e-cigarettes can damage developing brains. At the federal level, vaping manufacturers have until 2021 to submit vaping products for safety and health review by the FDA.

The United States Public Interest Research Group praised San Francisco leaders for becoming the first city to outlaw vaping.

"San Francisco's lawmakers have done what the FDA should have done years ago: ensure that e-cigarettes undergo the appropriate health review before hitting the shelves," PIRG campaign director Matt Wellington said. "With the rampant rise in e-cig use among our kids, it's clear the agency made a bad call by letting e-cigarettes remain on the market."


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