San Francisco bans sales of e-cigarettes from 2020

A unanimous vote by San Francisco's Board of Supervisors has effectively banned the sale of e-cigarettes in the city. Pending approval by the mayor, the prohibition is the first of its kind in the United States and will commence in early 2020.

The move by San Francisco city officials doesn't explicitly ban e-cigarettes, but instead prohibits the sale and distribution of e-cigarettes that lack premarket approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). No e-cigarette product currently has any FDA approval so this is, in effect, a complete ban.

"This temporary moratorium wouldn't be necessary if the federal government had done its job," says Dennis Herrera, co-author of the new ordinance and City Attorney. "E-cigarettes are a product that, by law, are not allowed on the market without FDA review. For some reason, the FDA has so far refused to follow the law. If the federal government is not going to act, San Francisco will."

Herrera's comments are a pointed jab at the FDA's slow action on instituting regulations targeted at the growing e-cigarette market. The amendments to the Tobacco Control Act, broadening FDA regulations to include modern smokeless tobacco products and e-cigarettes, were initially passed in mid-2016. At the time the regulation required e-cigarette companies to apply for clearance on all products by 2018.

In 2017 the FDA pushed that compliance deadline for e-cigarettes back to August 2022, claiming the extension will, "allow companies to develop higher quality, more complete applications informed by further guidance from the agency." It is this significant delay that San Francisco officials seem to be pushing back against with the city's new ordinance.

"Until such time as the FDA fulfills its statutory duty to conduct premarket reviews of new tobacco products, a generation of young people will become addicted to tobacco, resulting in an entirely preventable increase in the burdens and tragedies associated with tobacco use," the San Francisco ordinance states. "San Francisco is not content to wait until then before addressing, for its residents, what appears from the evidence to be a major public health crisis that is going unattended."

This is not the first progressive regulation recently instituted by the city of San Francisco. In May, the city was the first in the United States to ban local government and law enforcement uses of facial recognition technology.

Jun 26, 2019


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