This week, San Francisco voted to uphold a ban on flavored vape juice and other flavored tobacco products.
The public ballot could lead to more vape restrictions applied across the United States.
Almost 70% voted in favor of ‘Proposition E’ after the city’s Board of Supervisors first approved a flavor ban last year.
The ban includes all flavored e-liquids, menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars. It has been labelled one of the strictest local regulations anywhere in the western world.
Several anti-tobacco interest groups and health bodies supported the flavor ban, claiming that bright packaging may encourage kids to start using tobacco.
Vaping advocates opposed the ban, pointing out that vaping is safer than smoking and claiming that limiting access to e-cigarettes could dissuade adult smokers from trying to quit.
There is also a concern that these draconian rules will spread to other cities and states.
One of San Francisco’s California neighbors, Oakland, has already approved a similar ban while similar legislation is being tabled in New York and Chicago.
In this blog post, we look at some of the reactions from both sides of the debate to help you understand the arguments involved and the impact that the ban will have.
With deep pockets, the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids was one of the most outspoken groups in the San Francisco debate.
“San Francisco’s groundbreaking law stands – and will stop the tobacco industry from targeting kids, African Americans and other populations with menthol- and candy-flavored products, as the industry has done for far too long,” said President Matthew Myers said in a statement.
‘Geared towards teens’
The American Lung Association was one health organization that welcomed the ban.
“San Francisco’s youth are routinely bombarded with advertising for flavored tobacco and e-cigarettes every time they walk into a neighborhood convenience store. It’s clear that these products with candy themes and colorful packaging are geared towards teens,” a spokesperson said.
‘Embolden other cities and states’
Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg contributed more than $3m to the campaign supporting the ban.
“This vote should embolden other cities and states to act, because it demonstrates the public will not allow tobacco companies to stand in the way of policies that are proven to reduce smoking and save lives,” said Bloomberg in statement.
‘Setback for harm reduction’
Tobacco and e-cigarette company R.J. Reynolds was one of the chief funders behind the no campaign.
A spokesperson for R.J. Reynolds said that the vote was “a setback for tobacco harm reduction efforts because it removes from the market many potentially reduced-risk alternatives.”
They also said that the company would support federal regulations on restricting youth access to products while “preserving choice for adult smokers who are looking for alternatives to help them switch.”
President of the American Vaping Association Greg Conley emphasized the potential for e-cigarettes to do good for people.
“It is a travesty that anti-vaping extremists would mislead SF voters into making it harder for adult smokers to quit,” he said, adding that flavored products are helpful to adult smokers who are trying to quit.
‘Undermines FDA’s nicotine strategy’
Jeff Stier of the Consumer Choice Center took a different tact.
— Jeff Stier (@JeffaStier) June 5, 2018
The FDA has previously suggested that e-cigarettes could be used as an alternative to combustible cigarettes. In March the FDA said that: “certain flavors may help currently addicted adult smokers switch to potentially less harmful forms of nicotine-containing tobacco products.”
Before the vote, Jeff Stier called on the FDA to “speak out about how a local ban on the sale of flavored e-cigarettes to adults could undermine the FDA’s comprehensive regulatory plan to fight smoking.”
Christopher Snowdon from the Institute for Economic Affairs said that a key problem was the United States’ classification of e-cigarettes.
The latest ban in Ban Francisco is on flavoured tobacco products. Because the US weirdly pretends that vape juice is a tobacco product, this screws up vaping (quite deliberately). https://t.co/DhIGu10JkF
— Christopher Snowdon (@cjsnowdon) June 6, 2018
‘NY and Chicago next’
Other vape advocates focused on the future. YouTube personality GrimmGreen urged followers to look ahead and try to prevent similar bans in other states and cities.
— GrimmGreen (@GrimmGreen) 6 June 2018
— GrimmGreen (@GrimmGreen) 6 June 2018