San Francisco first to ban e-cigarettes, Juul fights back

The cartridges would be legal, but the devices would not.  Jessica Christian/The Chronicle

San Francisco seems tolerant of everything, as long as you agree with the majority. Gay marriage, cannabis, limited public nudity — no problem.

But e-cigarettes? Nope.

The devices now join flavored tobacco as a banned item thanks to a Tuesday vote by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. (SF also taxes sugar-sweetened drinks, but those are still legal, so far). If the FDA begins regulation, the ordinance could allow FDA-regulated devices.

Legal adults can smoke weed and use edibles, but you will no longer be able to buy an e-cigarette or vape pen in the city. Vaping is okay as a practice if you follow existing regulations, but you’ll have to buy the device in Oakland, or Marin, or South San Francisco.  Also, you cannot order vape pens online for delivery in SF.  Maybe try shipping to a locker in another city.

Small businesses will feel the effects, reports Mission Local.

“Small mom-and-pop business owners in the city, and the Mission in particular, are devastated by the vote, especially if it is passed without any amendments or tangible steps for mitigation,” the blog wrote.

THE MORE YOU KNOW: How do vape carts work?

Moe Mohamed with Smoker Friendly in the Mission tells Mission Local that last year’s ban on flavored e-cigarettes caused profits to plummet by “probably 30 to 50 percent.”

Meanwhile, massive e-cigarette maker Juul is planning a ballot initiative to trump the new ordinance and allow it to keep selling its popular but controversial products in the city, something tobacco control advocates and legal experts say is exactly what Big Tobacco has done for decades whenever local tobacco regulations affected their business.

Juul is currently gathering signatures for a November ballot member.

JUUL’S BACKUP PLAN: Combating the ban of e-cigarettes

The board hopes the ban will slow teen vaping and nicotine addiction.

Andrew Twinamatsiko, an attorney with the Public Health Law Center at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, who works with tobacco control groups and public health officials, tells the San Francisco Chronicle, “[Juul’s plan] has bad public health consequences for citizens in San Francisco because it’ll remove that aspect of regulation from the board.”

Juul disagrees, releasing a statement saying, “The initiative would enact new, stronger and comprehensive regulations for vapor products in San Francisco on top of existing law. It only supersedes the proposed ordinance (banning e-cigarettes) and prevents the full prohibition of vapor products for all adults, which is an extreme and deeply unpopular policy.”