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SF Officials Take New Approach To Limiting E-Cigarettes In City

Jenna Lane
March 19, 2019 - 2:07 pm

SAN FRANCISCO — Some elected officials in San Francisco are taking aim at e-cigarettes, trying to ban their sale until the Food and Drug Administration reviews their safety.

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s delay in reviewing e-cigarettes is inexplicable and inexcusable. Instead of trying to ban the products in San Francisco, he would hinge their sale on the FDA’s approval.

“Under this legislation, any e-cigarette that is required to have, but has not received, FDA premarket review could not be sold at a store in San Francisco or bought online and shipped to a San Francisco address,” Herrera said at a press conference on Tuesday. 

Supervisor Shamann Walton is introducing the legislation. He wants to make it clear that e-cigarettes and their leading manufacturer, San Francisco-based Juul, are not welcome.

“I don’t eventually want Juul to leave the city,” he said. “I would like for them to have been gone yesterday.”

Related: Juul and the Teen Vaping Epidemic

Citing colors and flavors that are enticing to children, Walton said companies like Juul get more people addicted to nicotine, namely those who would have never picked up a cigarette in the first place.

Other communities in the Bay Area are grappling with the rise in vaping. Twice as many teens in Marin County used e-cigarettes in 2018 than 2016, according to state data. 

Juul’s response was that it would lead to reduced adult access to its products, and that San Francisco leaders focus on eliminating combustible cigarettes.

But city officials aren’t just going after Juul’s products. They’re coming for their offices.

Walton’s legislation would prohibit the sale, manufacture and distribution of all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, on city property. Juul’s current headquarters are on Pier 70.

Herrera sent a notice today to Juul and the Pier 70 developer looking for an explanation why Juul holds a tobacco distributor license at that property when it claims to “not engage in the sale of cigarettes or tobacco products” on the premises.

Walton and Herrera say they’re not looking to ban e-cigarettes, but rather prohibit those that haven’t been reviewed by the FDA to confirm that they are appropriate for the protection of public health.

San Francisco, along with the cities of Chicago and New York, sent the FDA a letter demanding the FDA immediately conduct the required public health review of e-cigarettes that was required by law to occur before they hit the market. Herrera sent a second letter requesting records from the FDA to see if the city needs to take legal action against federal regulators for not undertaking the required reviews.

“The FDA has simply failed to do its job in unprecedented fashion,” Herrera said. “These are prudent steps to ensure that we know the health and safety implications of products being sold here. If the FDA hasn’t reviewed it, it shouldn’t be on store shelves in San Francisco.”