San Francisco became the first U.S. city to ban vape device sales in an effort to curb a rising epidemic of vaping among teens. The ordinance, which also bans flavored tobacco products, was unanimously approved Tuesday by the city’s board of supervisors.
The ban is ironic given that San Francisco is home to JUUL, the leading vaping device and products brand. The brand is so popular that vaping is often called “juuling.” JUUL is blamed for the skyrocketing popularity of vaping among young people, and accused of marketing its products to youths. JUUL’s valuation shot to $38 billion after cigarette maker Altria acquired a 35% stake, giving it almost limitless lobbying resources and political clout. The company said it has no intentions of leaving San Francisco and is reportedly planning to expand its presence on Pier 70, a city-owned property in the Dogpatch neighborhood.
During the debate about the anti-vaping ordinance, JUUL Labs chief Kevin Burns admitted his company is “partly responsible” for the epidemic of youth vaping in the U.S., but insists it was never the company’s intent to get millions of kids and teens hooked on nicotine.
The ordinance bans retail and online sales of vape devices and products to a person in San Francisco unless the products have been first reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). So far, no vape devices have been subject to FDA review. The ordinance also doesn’t prevent those 21 years of age and older from vaping.
The ordinance will become effective 30 days after it is signed by Mayor London Breed, and will become fully effective six months later. Breed has already expressed her support of the legislation.
“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. We need to take action to protect the health of San Francisco’s youth and prevent the next generation of San Franciscans from becoming addicted to these products,” she said in a statement.
San Francisco has historically taken a lead on progressive issues, having imposed bans on plastic straws and the sale of fur products. In March, the city, along with New York and Chicago, penned a letter to the FDA criticizing the agency for allowing vape products to stay on the market without review, and putting public health at risk.
Several health groups have also sued the agency for dragging its feet on vaping products, which led a federal judge in May to order the agency to speed up its review of the devices. Earlier this month, the FDA issued a final guidance for vape device and product manufacturers to submit applications for their tobacco products. But it wasn’t enough for San Francisco.
“E-cigarettes are a product that, by law, are not allowed on the market without FDA review. For that reason, the FDA has so far refused to follow the law,” said City Attorney Dennis Herrera in a statement. Herrera co-authored the legislation to ban vape product sales along with Supervisor Shamann Walton. “Now, youth vaping is an epidemic. If the federal government is not going to act to protect our kids, San Francisco will.”
Beasley Allen lawyers Joseph VanZandt and Sydney Everett are handling cases involving injuries related to vaping. We are looking at cases involving adolescent addiction and injuries including seizures, strokes, lung problems, and cardiovascular problems related to the use of JUUL vaping devices. If you have these type cases, we would like to work with you.