SAN FRANCISCO – San Francisco became on Tuesday the first major city in the United States to ban the sale of electronic cigarettes, a measure that affects both brick-and-mortar stores and online retailers.
The 11 members of the city and county’s board of supervisors unanimously voted in favor of prohibiting the sale of this product, arguing that e-cigarettes have been gaining popularity among young people, which could pose a risk to their health.
The glaring contradiction remains that the city – widely seen as one of the most progressive places in the country – has banned the sale of e-cigarettes but continues to sell traditional tobacco (considered to be more provenly harmful by experts) without problems, as well as marijuana, whose recreational use has been legal in the state of California state since last year.
In response to those who have pointed out this seeming contradiction, the measure’s defenders have repeatedly stressed that e-cigarettes are particularly attractive to teenagers.
Vallie Brown, a member of the San Francisco board of supervisors, said at the plenary session held to debate the legislation that for every adult who uses e-cigarettes as a means to help them quit smoking or reducing their doses of nicotine, dozens of children start using them.
The ordinance specifically states that “no person shall sell or distribute an electronic cigarette to a person in San Francisco” unless that product has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, something that has not occurred so far, as researchers are still unsure about the health effects of these relatively-new devices.
The ordinance does not prohibit the consumption of these cigarettes (as long as the person is over 21 years old); only their sale, which has also been criticized by some people in the sector who argue that consumers will simply buy them in nearby cities such as Oakland or Berkeley instead.
There is also the fact that the largest electronic cigarette manufacturer in the country, Juul Labs, is based in San Francisco.
“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,” the company said in a statement.
In early June, the City of Beverly Hills, a suburb of Los Angeles, banned the sale of all tobacco-related products as of 2021 – including cigarettes, cigars, e-cigarettes and pipe- and chewing tobacco – although it established exceptions for hotels and some other establishments.