San Francisco is poised to be the first US city to ban the sale of both flavoured and menthol e-liquids from April next year.
Supervisor Malia Cohen, who sponsored the bill said:
“We’re focusing on flavored products because they are widely considered to be a starter product for future smokers.”
Such a sweeping ban will undoubtedly have a massive impact on local vaping businesses and it is also feared that other towns and cities could follow suit. New York is considering a similar ban (but it would not include menthol products) while Chicago restricts the sale of flavoured tobacco products in the vicinity of schools.
The San Francisco ban would see the end of sales of all flavoured cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco and shisha. Only tobacco products and e-liquids which are flavour and menthol-free would be legal to sell.
The reason given for the ban is that:
“Flavored tobacco products promote youth initiation of tobacco use,” while “menthol, in particular, cools and numbs the throat to reduce throat irritation and make the smoke feel smoother.”
Roy Story, CEO of the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association, branded the ban as “extremely irresponsible” because many smokers have used flavoured e-cigarettes to help them either cut down on cigarettes or stop smoking completely. He said a more sensible move would be to ban anything that appeared to target children such as packaging containing cartoon characters for example.
“At the end of the day, it’s an adult product,” said Story.
“Personally, I am absolutely against flavours like bubble gum or pink elephant or strawberry delicious because I think the name itself sends the wrong message. “But the adult looking for a less harmful alternative is not looking for these products. This ban makes absolutely no sense.”
Regina Dick-Endrizzi, director of San Francisco’s Office of Small Business, questioned the impact the ban would have on small businesses which sold tobacco products. She said:
“The SBC in general does not support outright bans as a means of achieving a policy objective,”
She added that such regulation would be better applied at the State level. Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, described the ban as “complete nonsense” and said it failed to take account the benefits of flavoured vaping products. He added:
“There is a great deal of evidence that flavours are critical to helping adults quit smoking by helping them disconnect from the taste of tobacco.”
Conley also highlighted new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which showed that the numbers of high school and middle school students using e-cigarettes was declining sharply – at 2.2 million last year, down from 3 million the previous year. He added:
“Unfortunately, San Francisco supervisors ignored that data and the stories about how vaping was the only thing that helped many smokers quit.”