SF Supervisors Vote to Ban E-Cigs Sales Completely, While Juul Doubles Down

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In March of this year, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera and District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton proposed legislation that would ban the sale of e-cigarettes in the city and prohibit e-cigarette companies like Juul from occupying city-owned property in the future.

This week, City Supervisors voted 11-0 in favor of the ban, but a second and final vote to approve the legislation is expected next week. It would go into effect after six months (Jan/Feb 2020).  This would make San Francisco the first city in America to ban the sale of e-cigarettes completely.

Walton told reporters back in March that the proposed legislation should also serve as a warning and statement to Juul that “we don’t want them in our city,” he continued, “I don’t eventually want to see them leave this city,” he said. “I would have liked for them to have been gone yesterday.”

District 10 Sup, Shamann Walton

The city already banned flavored e-cigarettes last year (nicotine-infused flavors like ‘cucumber’, ‘red bull’, ‘creme’ ect.) claiming that they were marketed to teenagers and children.  ‘Vaping’ exploded in high schools across the nation in 2018, exposing nicotine addiction to teens in a very slick, easy to hide, package.  Juul vapes are the size of USB drives, they even charge them by plugging into your laptop.  Armed with its big tobacco dollars, Juul sought to take over the vaping market and it largely succeeded in 2018 and 2019.

“These companies may hide behind the veneer of harm reduction, but let’s be clear, their product is addiction,” City Attorney Dennis Herrera said. “They’re in the business of getting people addicted, or keeping them addicted.”

Supervisor Walton’s district includes the pier 70 where Juul is headquartered in the city.  It also includes Hunters Point and Excelsior where he’s seen many, many young students use to the new vapes.

In 2018 the biggest tobacco cigarette distributor in the US (called ‘Atria’ formerly of Phillip Morris) dumped an investment worth $12.8 billion into Juul, effectively controlling 35% of the e-cigarette company.  Big tobacco has been in steady decline in the US, (given that their product slowly kills its customers).  So they’re replacing their lost tobacco revenue with e-cigarettes.

Juul’s controversial ads were accused of directly marketing to young people
“We can’t restate this enough,” said Juul CEO Kevin Burns in a July 2018 letter to customers. “As an independent company that is not big tobacco, we are driven by our mission and commitment to adult smokers.”  Burns acknowledged the irony of the Marlboro cigarette making Altria’s investment in Juul, calling its new partner “unlikely — and seemingly counterintuitive.”
“We understand the controversy and skepticism that comes with an affiliation and partnership with the largest tobacco company in the US. We were skeptical as well,” Burns said. “But over the course of the last several months we were convinced by actions, not words, that in fact this partnership could help accelerate our success switching adult smokers.”
If we can editorialize for a minute…Juul is betting that ‘vaping’, although just as addictive as cigarettes, will prove far less cancer-causing than tobacco.  Teenagers becoming addicted to vaping, is just aprofitable by-product to them.  On the one hand, if vaping is far less cancerous than cigarettes, perhaps this is a good invention? On the other hand, if we simply getting millions of kids and adults addicted to something else, that will also eventually kill them, this is just more of the same from big tobacco.  The ban will also cost local bodegas and small businesses all over the city millions in sales.

Juul meanwhile, despite the aggressive legislation directed at them, doubled down in San Francisco in a big way.  They bought a big 28-story office tower at 123 Market st. this week.  Just a couple blocks for the Ferry Building. And you can bet they will put big money behind the ballot to fight any ban on their products, because this kind of legislation, if successful, has a habit of spreading to other cities.

Juul’s new building downtown 123 Mission St..


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Alex Mak - Managing Editor

Alex Mak - Managing Editor

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