Though an effort to raise California's smoking age to 21 stalled last month in the state Assembly, that won't stop a couple San Francisco lawmakers from trying to impose tighter regulations for young vapers and smokers at the local level.
At this afternoon's Board of Supervisors meeting (underway as we speak!), Supervisor Scott Wiener and co-sponsors Supervisor Eric Mar and Malia Cohen will introduce legislation to raise the purchasing age for tobacco products in San Francisco from 18 to 21.
In a press release announcing the legislation's introduction, Wiener says that "By raising the tobacco purchase age to 21, we can reduce adolescent tobacco use, which will help combat addiction, stop long-term illness, and prevent premature deaths."
"For decades we have seen the catastrophic health effects of tobacco use, and every day we spend millions of dollars treating people who suffer from an addiction which often starts in their teens. San Francisco can help lead a statewide and national movement to improve the health of our youth and save lives."
According to Wiener's release, a University of California San Francisco study estimated that as of 2009, the direct health care costs and indirect costs from lost productivity and premature births in San Francisco alone added up to $380 million.
And when Wiener says "tobacco" he isn't just talking about cigarettes or (shudder) cigars: He also means e-cigs and vaping products.
In an email to SFist, Wiener says that his legislation will hit even under 21 vapers by default, as "Last year, under legislation authored by Supervisor Mar, e-cigarettes were classified as cigarettes under our Municipal Code." So, if you're a 19-year-old e-cig fan, it just might be game over, man.
If the legislation passes, as Wiener seems confident it will, SF will be the second major US city to raise the smoking age to 21. New York City bumped their smoke-buying age to 21 in 2014, and the entire state of Hawaii raised the age last year.
According to the Chron, about 80 cities across the country have raised the cigarette sales age to 21, including Santa Clara County and Healdsburg. The Healdsburg case is interesting, though: Though the legislation passed, after legal threats from the National Association of Tobacco Outlets, it was suspended in October of this year.
"We are going to be threatened by a lawsuit by NATO (National Association of Tobacco Outlets)," Healdsburg mayor Mayor Shaun McCaffery told the Press Democrat in October, saying that former city attorney David Warner had said that "There is some risk involved, potential litigation if we get too far ahead (of other cities)," and that "Healdsburg was likely preempted by state law from adopting an ordinance raising the minimum age to 21."
San Francisco is no stranger to lawsuits with tobacco companies, though — after the Supes voted to ban tobacco sales in pharmacies in 2008, Philip Morris USA filed suit against the city, arguing that "the ordinance violated its First Amendment right to free speech." The tobacco company dropped that suit in October, 2009.