A walk down Mission street is a tour of nearly a dozen smoke and vape shops, mostly immigrant-owned. Nearly all sell a hip alternative to cigarettes: a battery-operated device that emits doses of vaporized nicotine for the user to inhale.
But not for long.
This afternoon, the Board of Supervisors is expected to vote its final approval of a citywide ban on the sale, manufacturing and distribution of all e-cigarettes — a move Mayor London Breed has said she’ll sign into law. This ordinance would make San Francisco the first city in the nation to take such drastic measures against “vaping,” a practice that is marginally healthier than old-school smoking, but still highly addictive because it delivers nicotine.
The vote comes on the heels of a previous city ban on flavored e-cigarettes that passed last year. Brought forth by Supervisor Shamann Walton, the latest e-cigarette legislation is meant to further protect public health, and teens especially, who are increasingly vaping at such a rate as to be classified as an “epidemic” by the surgeon general. More than three million American high school students used e-cigarettes in 2018. And between 2017 and 2018, teens increased their usage by 78 percent, according to 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS) data. Once signed by the mayor, the ban will take seven months to go into effect.
“San Francisco has never been afraid to lead,” City Attorney Dennis Herrera said in a statement after last week’s preliminary full board vote to ban the sale and manufacturing of e-cigarettes, which passed unanimously 11-0.
“E-cigarettes are a product that, by law, are not allowed on the market without FDA review. For some reason, the FDA has so far refused to follow the law. Now, youth vaping is an epidemic. If the federal government is not going to act to protect our kids, San Francisco will,” Herrera said.
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