Reaction to the San Francisco Ban on E-Cigarettes

On June 25, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to ban the sale of e-cigarettes within city limits, at both retail and online, until they go through the FDA regulatory process. Under current FDA policy, these products can stay on the market through August 2022, when manufacturers must submit a product application. 

This effective prohibition will drive former adult smokers who successfully transitioned to vapor products back to combustible cigarettes, deny current adult smokers the opportunity to move off combustible use altogether, and create a thriving black market instead of addressing the actual causes of underage access and use.

Many have come out with the same reaction to this misguided policy, noting the significant negative impact for adult smokers. 


Dr. Michael Siegel, Professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences, Boston University School of Public Health

“San Francisco Board of Supervisors poised to deliver huge gift to Philip Morris” (Dr. Michael Siegel: “San Francisco Board of Supervisors Poised to Deliver Huge Gift to Philip Morris,” The Rest of the Story: Tobacco and Alcohol News Analysis and Commentary, 6/22/19)

“Earlier today, the Board approved an ordinance that will ban the sale of all electronic cigarettes in the city, including both brick-and-mortar and online sales. Before it becomes law, the ordinance is subject to a final vote, which is expected to take place next week. … Absurdly, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors is allowing the continued, unfettered sale of real cigarettes — the ones that kill more than 400,000 Americans (including more than 40,000 Californians) each year” (Dr. Michael Siegel: “San Francisco Board of Supervisors Poised to Deliver Huge Gift to Philip Morris,” The Rest of the Story: Tobacco and Alcohol News Analysis and Commentary, 6/22/19)

“This has to be one of the most insane public health proposals I have ever seen. This legislation basically says: ‘We care so much about the health of our kids that we can’t allow e-cigarettes to remain on the market until they have a complete safety review. However, we are perfectly happy allowing cigarettes—which have had extensive safety reviews and been found to be killing hundreds of thousands of Americans each year—to remain on the market” (Michael Siegel, “Why Is SF Considering Banning Fake Cigarettes But Allowing The Real Ones To Stay On The Market?” San Francisco Examiner, 3/26/19)


David J. Johns, Executive Director of The National Black Justice Coalition

“There are several potential negative impacts this ban would have on the black community. First, a ban that removes all vapor products risks folks who have stopped smoking cigarettes reverting back. Simply put, prohibition does not work. Lawmakers have the responsibility to enforce reasonable expectations. With that, let’s do this responsibly, we should focus on regulation, responsible marketing and accountability for companies that violate policies.”

“Adults should have the opportunity to make adult decisions while we continue to find ways to reduce the number of adults using both cigarettes and e-cigarette alternatives. Beyond restricting the rights of responsible adults making informed decisions, an unintended consequence includes increasing the use and purchase of cigarettes.” (David J. Johns, Op-Ed, “San Francisco Vaping Ban Will Disproportionately Impact The Black Community,” San Francisco Examiner, 6/30/19)


San Francisco Chronicle Editorial Board

“But the crusade needs a reality check. It’s not as if reasonable steps are not being taken to study vaping and restrict its appeal to youth. The city cracked down on flavored e-cigarettes through a ballot measure last year. The federal Food and Drug Administration is entering the picture with its own limitations aimed at curbing sales. Vaping is a tempting public villain. Manufacturers should be treated with skepticism about claims that vaping is a benign habit. What vaping doesn’t deserve is a dose of shortsighted demonizing that does little to change the bigger picture of tobacco abuse and other health dangers the city is loath to confront” (San Francisco Chronicle Editorial Board, “Editorial: San Francisco Vaping Ban Is Purely Political Grandstanding,” San Francisco Chronicle, 6/21/19)


Josh Barro, Columnist

“Instead of Juul, San Francisco should have banned cigarettes” (Josh Barro, “Instead Of Juul, San Francisco Should Have Banned Cigarettes,” New York Magazine, 6/26/19)

“Ideally, you should want a public policy that encourages smokers to switch to vaping; that discourages non-users of nicotine products, especially minors, from taking up any nicotine product; and that discourages vape users from switching to combustible cigarettes. San Francisco’s proposed policy (a second vote by the Board of Supervisors is required before it becomes law) fails to meet the third test because it makes traditional cigarettes easier to obtain than vapes” (Josh Barro, “Instead Of Juul, San Francisco Should Have Banned Cigarettes,” New York Magazine, 6/26/19)

“Adult smokers who are thinking about switching to vaping, or who have already done so, might continue buying cigarettes because the city will make that the more convenient option” (Josh Barro, “Instead Of Juul, San Francisco Should Have Banned Cigarettes,” New York Magazine, 6/26/19)


Los Angeles Times Editorial Board

“The San Francisco Board of Supervisors gave a tentative thumbs-up to the ban last week, and the supervisors are expected to reaffirm their support in a final vote Tuesday. We hope the supervisors will see the light before then. Not only is it 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” (Los Angeles Times Editorial Board, “San Francisco’s E-Cigarette Ban Isn’t Just Bad Policy, It’s Bad For Public Health,” Los Angeles Times 6/24/19) 

“There are more reasonable ways to attack teen vaping than criminalizing electronic cigarettes for everyone. The state is already trying one: Two years ago it raised the legal age for all tobacco products from 18 to 21, which cut off legal access to those products for teens who may still be in high school and might purchase electronic cigarettes for their younger school friends. San Francisco adopted another last year: banning fruit and candy flavorings that appeal to teens. The city hasn’t given this narrower ban much of a chance to show results, however. A third possibility would be to restrict e-cigarette sales more tightly, such as by permitting only retail outlets that use point-of-sale ID readers and restricting how many electronic cigarettes can be purchased at one time” (Los Angeles Times Editorial Board, “San Francisco’s E-Cigarette Ban Isn’t Just Bad Policy, It’s Bad For Public Health,” Los Angeles Times 6/24/19)