San Francisco just became the first big U.S. city to put a blanket ban on the sale of electronic cigarettes. On Tuesday, the city’s Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to prohibit the distribution of e-cigs from brick-and-mortar and online stores to anyone with an S.F. address, effective in 2020, CNN reports. The only exception to the e-cig ban is for products reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). So far, zero have been.
You will still be able to use e-cigarettes in San Francisco—and the sale of old-fashioned cigarettes and cannabis vapes has not been banned—but it’ll be a lot more difficult to find them. City officials hope their ban will prevent young people from getting their hands on vapes and thus getting hooked on nicotine, which, as we know, is a major concern in the U.S. right now. Last year, the FDA recommended that cities work hard to prevent the sale of e-cigs to minors (especially all those fun flavored pods), but didn’t go as far as to force them off the shelves.
Some locales have worked to limit vape sales on their own, raising legal ages and outlawing flavored products, but San Francisco is the biggest city yet to act, and its ordinance is the most intense. There are reports of other cities considering similarly strict legislation.
Come 2020, there will be a lot fewer e-cigarettes in San Francisco. Ironically, though, San Francisco will still remain the de facto home of the e-cigarette. Juul, the industry-dominating vape company, is headquartered in the city. It said in a statement that “this full prohibition will drive former adult smokers who successfully switched to vapor products back to deadly cigarettes, deny the opportunity to switch for current adult smokers, and create a thriving black market instead of addressing the actual causes of underage access and use.”
Vapes do provide adult cigarette smokers with tobacco-free alternatives. But as far as the FDA, the CDC, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors, and basically everyone else are concerned, the danger is in kids using them. Only recently did the FDA crack down on Juul and other e-cig companies for marketing themselves directly to young users with brightly colored ads and super-cool pod flavors. It told the vape industry this year that it had until 2022 to turn in its products for FDA review.
Just last week, former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb told CNBC that he believed Juul would have a tough time getting its product approved in time. “They have so much historical youth use with their product,” he said. “I don’t know how Juul gets through an application process.”
The FDA might not know much about the dangers (or benefits) of using electronic devices like these—much more scientific research must be conducted—but it doesn’t seem too keen to let an entire generation get hooked on nicotine on its watch.
Funnily enough, as this happens, cities around America are deciding whether or not to unban understudied substances in the cases of magic mushrooms, recreational marijuana, and even CBD—at least, for adults 21 years or older. But when it comes to limiting access, right now, the big concern is teens who vape. And there are a lot of them.