Vaping Flavors, Menthol Ban Upheld In San Francisco Despite Public Backlash

Steve Birr | Vice Reporter

Regulators voted to uphold a ban on menthol cigarettes and flavored vaping products in San Francisco Tuesday that critics say will devastate small business owners.

The city Board of Supervisors originally passed the citywide ban in a unanimous vote June 20, but were forced to return to the issue after a coalition of small businesses submitted a petition with 33,941 signatures. The measure, which is the first ban on vaping flavors and menthol products in the country, is set to take effect in April reports CNBC.

The contentious issue will now be determined by a popular ballot vote scheduled for June 5, 2018. Critics of the ban say flavored vaping products are key to helping smokers dissociate with the taste of tobacco and ultimately quit. They also note the measure is likely to disproportionately impact small businesses in the city.

“It’s constantly retailers, especially small businesses, that are highly impacted,” a spokesman for Let’s Be Real San Francisco, the group leading the opposition to the ban, told CNBC. “Many rely on tobacco sales and products and follow the rules and regulations and are most harmed from them.”

Regulators in the city argue that options like cotton candy, banana cream and even mint entice children and serve as a gateway to smoking cigarettes, but recent data shows these fears are largely unfounded. Medical experts focused on harm reduction say misrepresentations of vaping, often driven by politic interests, damage overall public health and risk costing smokers’ lives.

A growing body of medical evidence demonstrates that vaping is a much safer alternative to smoking. A University of California study released July 26 showed a record number of Americans are ditching cigarettes with the aid of vaping devices. The rate of Americans quitting smoking jumped from 4.5 percent between 2010 and 2011 to 5.6 percent between 2014 and 2015.

That means roughly 350,000 smokers gave up the habit between 2014 and 2015.

The fight over flavored products in San Francisco will likely influence similar policy battles happening in cities and states across the country. The sale of flavored cigarettes is banned at the federal level, however, the regulations exclude menthol products.

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