The San Francisco Board of Supervisors just voted to approve two ordinances that will effectively ban all e-cigarette and vape-pod sales in the city limits — including mail-order sales delivered to SF addresses.
The ordinances, which have been months in the making, are the first of their kind in the US. The ban is specifically aimed at keeping e-cigs out of the hands of teens, and at the Food and Drug Administration's lack of review of e-cigarette products to date. As City Attorney Dennis Herrera put it in a statement earlier this month, when the ordinance passed its initial vote, "If the federal government is not going to act to protect our kids, San Francisco will."
The ban actually consists of two separate pieces of legislation, as the HuffPo notes, one of which bans the sale of all vape and flavored products that haven't received FDA review — something that no e-cig maker has yet sought — and the second bans the manufacture, sale, and distribution of e-cig products on city property. Vaping will still be permitted for all those over 21.
E-cigarettes, along with all tobacco products, are currently not allowed to be sold to anyone under 21 in the state of California, but San Francisco lawmakers have sought to strengthen the law because of lax enforcement by retailers.
Mayor London Breed still has the chance to veto the legislation, though she faces a veto-proof majority on the Board, and she's already indicated her support for it. "I support the legislation authored by City Attorney Dennis Herrera and Supervisor Shamann Walton to suspend the sale of e-cigarettes in San Francisco until the Food and Drug Administration concludes a review of the impacts of vaping on public health," Breed said in a statement. "There is so much we don't know about the health impacts of these products, but we do know that e-cigarette companies are targeting our kids in their advertising and getting them hooked on addictive nicotine products."
As CNN reports, SF-based e-cig maker Juul — which, ironically, just bought a huge new office building downtown last week — issued a statement in response to the legislation saying, "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."
To be fair, if the ordinance is signed into law, cigarettes may be the "only choice" for those who don't get out much beyond their corner store, but it won't stop them from BARTing or driving to Oakland or Daly City, where vape stores stand to profit mightily from SF's lawmaking.
Primarily, SF's supervisors and the city attorney want the FDA to take notice of their stance, and potentially take some action. "E-cigarettes are a product that, by law, are not allowed on the market without FDA review," Herrera wrote in his statement. "For some reason, the FDA has so far refused to follow the law."
E-cigarette makers like Juul have a path to becoming FDA-approved via final guidance for premarket applications issued by the agency two weeks ago. As CNN reports, the FDA is already under pressure from a federal judge to speed up its review of the thousands of vape products now on the market — the result of a lawsuit that shined a light on the FDA's decision to allow e-cig makers to sell their products without approval until 2022.
In a statement this month, Acting FDA Commissioner said, "The final guidance... provides companies seeking to market e-cigarette and [electronic nicotine delivery system] products with recommendations to consider as they prepare a premarket tobacco product application to help the FDA evaluate the public health benefits and harms of a product." The FDA has said that it will consider how addictive e-cigarettes are for non-smokers, and how often those who pick up the vape habit tend to quit.