San Francisco is expected to become the first city in the country to ban the sale of electronic cigarettes in an effort to combat teen vaping, which is at an all time high nationwide. The city’s board of supervisors passed measures banning the sale of e-cigarettes and flavored tobacco on Tuesday.
The ban is composed of two ordinances: the first prohibits the sale, manufacturing and distribution of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, on city property.
The second prohibits the sale of e-cigarettes or flavored products that do not have marketing approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ― something no e-cigarette manufacturer has submitted as of 2018, according to Truth Initiative, a nonprofit that advocates to end tobacco use.
The San Francisco measures would ban both in-store purchase and online purchases of e-cigarettes being shipped to the city. Any retailers that continue selling these products would receive a $1,000 fine or other penalties. However, the ordinances would not bar the use of these e-cigarettes by people 21 years old and older. (California bars e-cigarette sales for anyone under 21)
“It doesn’t ban e-cigarettes outright. It simply says that if a tobacco product is required to have FDA approval to be on the market, it can’t be sold in San Francisco until it receives that approval,” City Attorney Dennis Herrera said in a statement earlier this month. “That’s just common sense.”
Herrera said this ban wouldn’t be necessary if the federal government had stopped e-cigarettes from coming to the market until they were reviewed by the FDA. “If the federal government is not going to act to protect our kids, San Francisco will,” he said.
This blanket ban seems to be targeted at major e-cigarette brand Juul Labs, since it comes on the heels of the company’s rapid expansion.
Juul Labs is based in San Francisco, and it bought a new building last Tuesday ― the same day the board of supervisors held a preliminary vote on the e-cigarette ban.
Despite the city’s actions, Juul said it has always been “a proud San Francisco-based company.”
“The prohibition of vapor products for all adults in San Francisco will not effectively address underage use and will leave cigarettes on shelves as the only choice for adult smokers, even though they kill 40,000 Californians every year,” Juul executives said in a statement about the ordinance.
Juul is currently facing investigations and scrutiny over its possible role in the rise of tobacco use among minors. Last Thursday, House Democrats requested internal documents from Juul as part an investigation into teen vaping. In March, North Carolina filed a lawsuit against Juul, alleging it misrepresented the dangers of its nicotine products and that they were designed and marketed toward young people.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed has 10 days to decide whether to sign the ban into law, but has already voiced her support. The law would not take effect until January 2020. This gives e-cigarette manufacturers seven months from the signing date to get their products FDA-certified.