Back to News

Why San Francisco’s E-Cigarette Ban is a Political Stunt

By: Sally Satel and Erica Sanberg

San Francisco is a city of mind-bending contrasts.

Park your car for more than two hours on a residential street and you’ll face a steep ticket or a tow. But set up camp on a sidewalk with a collection of tents, shopping carts, and stolen bicycles and the city gives you days or more to move.

Sip from an open container of alcohol in a city park and you may be cited. Inject yourself with heroin in public, and you’re unlikely to face official response.

Enjoy your boba tea through a single-use, plastic straw – but only until July 1. After that, municipal policy aimed at keeping plastic from ending up in the ocean forbids vendors from offering them to the non-disabled.

Speaking of plastic, about 2 million of the 5.8 million syringes distributed last year by the city littered the streets or washed into the bay.

To be fair, the city is trying to rein in homelessnessdrug use, and errant syringes, but the latest policy has its full-throated support: A ban on the sale of electronic cigarettes.

Yesterday, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors decreed that vaping products — from the widely popular cartridge models, of which JUUL is the best known, to tanks, vape pens, and e-liquids — can no longer be sold in brick and mortar stores or purchased online and delivered to local addresses.

The ban is intended to “protect youth from e-cigarettes,” according to a press release from City Attorney Dennis Herrera.

Doubtless, non-smoking teens shouldn’t vape. But what about smoking adults, the target audience for e-cigarettes?

If they can’t quit or don’t want to, they must have access to nicotine in a safer form. This is the principle of harm reduction.

E-cigarettes are estimated to be at least 95% less hazardousthan conventional cigarettes. This is because they do not burn tobacco, which release carcinogens and carbon monoxide. Vapers inhale nicotine via a propylene glycol-based and/or glycerin-based aerosol.


Make a Difference

Now is the time to Join the Fight with us by becoming a member.