No More Vaping in San Francisco? | Citizens Against Government Waste

No More Vaping in San Francisco?

The WasteWatcher

The Los Angeles Times’s June 24 editorial, “San Francisco’s E-cigarette Ban Isn’t Just Bad Policy, it’s Bad for Public Health” is right on target.

Today, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote on banning the sales of electronic tobacco products, or e-cigarettes, within the city until the Food and Drug Administration adopts regulations for the products.  Meanwhile, anyone over 21 with an ID will be able to continue to purchase combustible cigarettes, liquor, and marijuana in markets throughout the city.

It would be foolish to adopt such a measure, in what the LA Times calls “a misguided attempt to curb teen vaping.”  Unfortunately, San Francisco’s city officials are expected to do just that unless they heed the LA Times’s call that it is “bad public policy to outlaw a legal product that’s widely available just outside the city’s borders, but it’s bad public health policy to come down harder on the lesser of two tobacco evils.”

The LA Times is correct that all the measure will do is force residents to travel beyond the city to purchase e-cigarettes and encourage the development of a black market to sell the products within city limits.

The bigger issue, which the LA Times recognizes, is by making it more difficult for smokers to access e-cigarettes many residents will continue to use combustible cigarettes, which are known to be extremely harmful.

San Francisco likes to think of themselves as forward thinking but when it comes to e-cigarettes, they are far behind the thought process of Public Health England (PHE), which is encouraging smokers to switch to e-cigarettes.  A February 2019 report on vaping stated that, “England continues to take small progressive steps towards ensuring vaping remains an accessible and appealing alternative to smoking.” 

PHE’s recent report has so far found that regular vaping use by young people is low, with 1.7% of 11 to 18-year-olds reporting at least weekly use and that “quitting smoking remains the main reason for vaping in all socio-economic groups.”  PHE argues that quitting smoking is of prime importance and smokers should move to any other support option for doing so, including using e-cigarettes.

Certainly, teen smoking and vaping is a concern, but the best approach to stop teen smoking and vaping is for parents and teachers to educate youth that getting hooked on nicotine is not a healthy or smart thing to do rather than instituting an outright ban on e-cigarettes, which are less harmful alternatives that have helped millions of smokers move away from combustible cigarettes.

Ironically, Juul Labs, Inc., the nation’s largest electronic cigarette company, is based in San Francisco.  The company has more than 1,500 employees, with most of them living in the city.  Juul also happens to be the biggest target for federal and state politicians, as well as regulators, because their product is favored by under-age vapers.  Juul was founded by two former smokers with the “goal of improving the lives of the world's one billion adult smokers by eliminating cigarettes” and has taken steps to prevent kids from using their product.

But, that may not be enough for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.  Will the board ban a tobacco harm-reduction product of a large employer based in their city? And if they do, what will that mean for the company, its employees, or small businesses that sell a variety of vaping products?  The LA Times editorial is critical of the board, stating in recent years it has gotten involved in a “flurry of more intrusive restraints,” such as forbidding delivery robots or trying to ban company cafeterias. 

Perhaps this is another nanny-state operation the board feels it must take.

Meanwhile, the board rewarded themselves with a 12 percent pay raise even though they have been unable to deal with an immediate health crisis in their own city:  a huge homeless population living on the streets and human feces piling-up everywhere.  One would think the board would have more pressing matters than banning a legal product in their city.