Future Of Vaping In San Francisco Becomes Choice For Voters

Jeremy Wong blows vapor from an e-cigarette at The Vaping Buddha on January 23, 2018 in South San Francisco, California.
Photo credit Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
By KCBS All News 106.9FM and 740AM

SAN FRANCISCO —The fate of the city’s landmark e-cigarette ban will be decided by voters this year. 

Less than a month after the Board of Supervisors passed the ban, the Department of Elections has now certified a measure to overturn it. It will appear on the November ballot. 

The Coalition for Reasonable Vaping Regulation, which is funded by e-cig maker Juul, is behind the new measure. The Coalition’s proposal places stricter age regulations on vaping products but still allow the products to be sold. 

“We can regulate youth vaping but we can also make sure that adults still have the choice to use vaping to stop smoking if they want to,” said spokesman Nate Allbee.

The ballot initiative comes as no surprise to tobacco control advocates. Sana Chehimi with the non-profit Prevention Institute told KCBS Radio when the Coalition first began collecting signatures, “they’re doing exactly what we would expect big tobacco to do.”

If approved by voters, retailers selling e-cigarettes and other vaping products would be subject to existing tobacco regulations, including geographic and age limits. They would also have to limit the number of products sold in a single transaction, scan photo ID to verify a customer’s age and store products out of reach.

E-cigarettes have been the subject of controversy since the products first hit store shelves. Supporters, such as Allbee, argue that they are a healthier alternative for adult smokers because the products carry fewer harmful chemicals.

But critics argue the products flavors and healthier presentation are responsible for the rise in teen smoking, and say there is no scientific evidence to show that e-cigarettes are any healthier than traditional tobacco products. “E-cigarettes aren’t safe,” said Chehimi. “And e-cigarettes expose vapers and those around them to dangerous ingredients.”

Residents will vote on the ballot measure before the city’s ban has gone into effect, as supervisors gave retailers six months to prepare.