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San Francisco Becomes First City to Ban E-Cigarette Sales

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In a shocking twist of events, the City of San Francisco has banned e-cigarette sales in all brick-and-mortar stores and delivery of products purchased online to city addresses. However, that’s not the craziest part — cigarettes are still fair game. Even some major news outlets are befuddled by this vote, and other cities, namely Pittsburgh and Seattle, are threatening the same measure. While the law may not be permanent and could be pending based on the Food and Drug Administration’s ruling, it certainly is a major blow to the industry and an alarming precedent.

The ordinance was introduced in March and then swiftly was considered in June when the Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee voted a whopping 3-0 to approve restricting sales of electronic cigarettes. The vote then went to the Board of Supervisors. Decision makers argued that e-cigs shouldn’t be available for purchase until the FDA gives the OK.

On June 24, the LA Times published an editorial regarding the subject, calling it “bad policy,” “bad for public health” and “a misguided attempt to curb teen vaping.” Essential, the Board of Supervisors voted to “come down harder on the lesser of two tobacco evils,” and while we can’t claim that e-cigarettes are harm reduction tools, research shows that vaping is less harmful than smoking.

“There are more reasonable ways to attack teen vaping than criminalizing electronic cigarettes for everyone,” the Times wrote. “There are other products not targeted by this ban that the FDA has yet to deem safe for consumption, such as marijuana.” And, obviously vapers can drive out of San Francisco to purchase their products elsewhere, which is bad for vaping businesses once housed within city limits. Former smokers may return back to the habit. Additionally, there is the issue of the black market, where anyone can buy anything from anyone — a scary thought.

San Francisco is ironically the corporate headquarters of JUUL, and the company provided a written statement after the Board of Supervisor vote: "This full prohibition will drive former adult 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.”

Mayor London Breed has said she will sign the ordinance into law in early July, and enforcement will begin in early 2020. Retailers could be fined up to $1,000 if violating the ordinance — for now.