San Francisco may become first major US city to ban all e-cigarette sales

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San Francisco may become the first major city in the U.S. to ban all e-cigarette sales if city officials consider moving the effort forward.

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San Francisco supervisors will weigh a ban on the sale and distribution of e-cigarettes in the city until the U.S. Food and Drug Administration completes a review of the effects of e-cigarettes on public health, as well as ban manufacturing e-cigarettes on city property. Earlier this month, city officials advanced the bill to ban the sale of e-cigarettes. If supervisors approve the measures, they will require a subsequent vote before becoming law.

The proposal is a way to crack down on youth vaping. Since 2014, e-cigarettes have been the most commonly used tobacco product among young people in the country. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported that the number of middle and high school students who use tobacco products increased by 36 percent from 2017 to 2018, a rise attributed to the use of e-cigarettes.

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Leading San Francisco-based e-cigarette company Juul frames vaping as a healthier alternative to smoking a cigarette. The company said it has taken steps to sway children from buying and using its products. The company has taken down its Facebook and Instagram accountants as a way to deter those under 21 years old from buying its products.

However, Ted Kwong, a Juul spokesperson, said the ban would just lead users to turn to cigarettes as a second choice.

"But the prohibition of vapor products for all adults in San Francisco will not effectively address underage use and will leave cigarettes on shelves as the only choice for adult smokers, even though they kill 40,000 Californians every year," Kwong said.

Groups representing small businesses also oppose the measure, saying it would force some stores to shutter its doors.

"We need to enforce the rules that we have in place already," said Carlos Solórzano, CEO of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of San Francisco.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, electronic cigarettes are not safe for children, young adults, pregnant women and those who do not use tobacco products.

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“E-cigarette aerosol generally contains fewer toxic chemicals than the deadly mix of 7,000 chemicals in smoke from regular cigarettes,” the CDC said in a statement. "However, e-cigarette aerosol is not harmless. It can contain harmful and potentially harmful substances, including nicotine, heavy metals like lead, volatile organic compounds, and cancer-causing agents.”

Earlier this month, the Beverly Hills City Council unanimously voted to end most tobacco sales in the city. The city became the first U.S. city to snuff out sales of tobacco products.

The Beverly Hills City Council voted 5-0 to end the sales of cigarettes, cigars, e-cigarettes, chewing tobacco, pipe tobacco and other tobacco products beginning in 2021. The ban will cover tobacco sales at gas stations, pharmacies, convenience and grocery stores.

However, it exempts hotels and three plush cigar lounges in the wealthy Los Angeles suburb. The hotel exemption was designed to accommodate tourists, who could have a concierge deliver their preferred tobacco product. However, patrons will have to smoke outside.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.