San Francisco takes controversial measures to crack down on e-cigarettes

Global Business

San Francisco takes controversial measures to crack down on e-cigarettes

E-Cigarettes, or vaping, has becoming a multi-billion dollar industry that has caught on with a young generation.

Many cities in the U.S. are struggling to deal with what they view as a serious public health issue. As CGTN’s Mark Niu reports, the city of San Francisco is taking some controversial measures to crack down on the industry.

A Centers for Disease Control report says e-cigarette use among U.S. high school students rose from around 12 percent to nearly 21-percent in just a year’s time.

The San Francisco board of supervisors said enough, voting unanimously to pass an ordinance that bans the sale of e-cigarettes in the city.

“Very inconvenient to get some products that people like and I would like to buy and have it available more because it’s a choice I make to enjoy that product. And I should have that right to do so,” AJ Diab, manager of Dean’s Fine Cigar, which sells e-cigarettes and other tobacco products said.

Critics of the ban say e-cigarette smokers will just go to other nearby cities to get their supplies. Some also say it’s hypocritical for the city to legalize marijuana and allow ordinary smoking, while suddenly restricting vaping.

“We have doctors who have gone around to some of our campuses that see dozens and dozens of e-cigarette cartridges all around schools,” said Shamann Walton, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. “So I’ve seen it first hand, young people are talking about it. It’s really an epidemic.”

Walton co-authored the ordinance banning e-cigarettes after finding out the biggest player in the vaping market – Juul – was leasing city property in his own district. Juul declined our requests to be interviewed.

Instead, the company issued a statement saying the ban will drive former adult smokers who successfully switched to vapor products back to deadly cigarettes. It said it had already taken the most aggressive actions in the industry to keep their products out of the hands of those underage and are taking steps to do more. 

“I had a meeting with Juul a few months ago,” said Walton. “They said to my face that they were against tobacco, against tobacco companies. Then about a week and a half later, Altria, who is a major tobacco provider in the United States buys a large percentage of Juul. So I’m not buying this mantra that they want to protect people… when in reality they are working to addict another generation to nicotine and do it in a different way.”

Juul recently purchased a 28-story office tower in downtown San Francisco reportedly valued at $400 million, the city’s largest deal in recent years. The company has already gathered the necessary 9,500 signatures to add a ballot measure for November that would attempt to overturn the ban.

Once San Francisco’s mayor signs the ordinance, the ban on the sale of e-cigarettes will go into effect 30 days later. City officials say the ban will be in place until the U.S. Federal Drug Administration conducts appropriate clinical trials and issues standards on those products.