San Francisco Becomes First US City to Ban Sale of E-Cigarettes, a Healthier Alternative to Smoking

In San Francisco, vapers may be forced to cross city lines to buy e-cigarettes.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted on Tuesday to ban the sale and delivery of e-cigarettes, active 30 days after being signed, until the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finishes its current study.

It is the first ban of its kind in the United States.

Targeting e-cigarettes for restrictions is misguided when research shows they are safer relative to cigarettes and provide a pathway toward weaning oneself off of nicotine.

Evolved Cigarettes

Vaping is the evolution of smoking cigarettes, a choice with less risk. Public Health England and other studies have found that switching to e-cigarettes can reduce the harm of smoking by up to 95 percent.

Both contain nicotine, but cigarettes include up to 7,000 other chemicals. E-cigarettes have no tobacco but do contain propylene glycol and glycerin—two substances the FDA recognizes as safe.One study of 7,000 Juul users quit cigarettes within three months, while 52 percent cut their cigarette consumption by half.

Another study found that smokers who switch to Juuls, the most popular brand of e-cigarettes, experienced the same eight reductions in biomarkers (hazardous chemicals) as smokers who quit without e-cigarettes.

Of course, there are risks with vaping, but it's the best way to kick a cigarette addiction.

The FDA has approved three versions of nicotine delivery devices: gum, patches, and e-cigarettes. Of these, e-cigarettes are more effective at breaking cigarette addiction. One study of 7,000 Juul users quit cigarettes within three months, while 52 percent cut their cigarette consumption by half.

Aid the Quitting Process

A year-long trial in England showed participants who smoked e-cigarettes were almost twice as successful in quitting cigarettes as others who used patches or gum.

Dennis Herrera, San Francisco's city attorney, said young people "have almost indiscriminate access to a product that shouldn't even be on the market."

Adults should be allowed to decide to better their lives and quit smoking. E-cigarettes pave an easier path for smokers to quit.

Fear of underage users drives the brunt of restrictions, and for good reason. Nicotine can delay adolescent brain development. Juul should strictly adhere to age restrictions in selling and marketing.

But adults should be allowed to decide to better their lives and quit smoking. E-cigarettes pave an easier path for smokers to reduce a leading cause of death.

Limiting Freedom of Choice

Anyone who buys an e-cigarette can read the label: CONTAINS NICOTINE, AN ADDICTIVE CHEMICAL. Feigning ignorance would be akin to consumers blaming a soda company for the sugar content in drinks because the buyer didn't read the label.

The government isn't efficient at problem-solving. Banning drugs or guns doesn't solve the issue. The House Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy is investigating Juul for the teen youth vaping "epidemic" (if you look at the numbers, it's hardly an epidemic) and will decide to ban e-cigarettes until the FDA reviews their consumer safety.

A Juul spokesman explained that “the prohibition of vapor products for all adults in San Francisco will not effectively address underage use."

Meanwhile, Juul has taken precautions to keep their e-cigs from underage consumers. Juul's track-and-trace program identifies retailers that sell e-cigarettes to underage customers. Seized Juul's tracking identifier numbers are entered into a portal used to investigate each violation (whether a lax clerk or a fake ID) and might even deploy secret shoppers to bust cheating stores.

The San Francisco ban won’t go into effect for at least seven months, Gizmodo reports.

Juul Labs, based in San Francisco, is already working to bring the issue to voters in November.

“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, even though they kill 40,000 Californians every year," a Juul spokesman told the Associated Press. “We will continue to work with local policymakers, small businesses, community leaders and adult smokers who have switched to vapor products to enact stronger regulation and enforcement rather than complete prohibition.”

Inefficient and Harmful Policy 

Smoking is the number one cause of preventable death worldwide, netting almost six million deaths a year. More than 70 percent of the 46 million smokers in America want to quit. More than half of smokers have tried to quit, but only about 6 percent succeed, according to government data.

Restricting e-cigarettes is like firing at "Big Tobacco," missing, and killing the most successful solution. E-cigarettes give smokers a viable option for better health.

In San Francisco, vapers may be forced to cross city lines to buy e-cigarettes.

"Anything which helps smokers to avoid heart disease and cancer and lung disease is a good thing, and e-cigarettes can do that," said Peter Hajek, study co-author and an addiction specialist at the Queen Mary University of London.

It’s hard to quit cigarettes, and vaping to quit cigarettes requires discipline. A smoker who switches to e-cigarettes can quickly become more addicted to nicotine. But, if used correctly, smokers can buy progressively lower nicotine content (from 4.8 to 0 percent) to wean themselves off an ugly, expensive habit.

But in San Francisco, vapers may be forced to cross city lines to buy e-cigarettes.