San Francisco Residents Vote to Ban Flavored Tobacco

San Francisco Residents Vote to Ban Flavored Tobacco
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San Francisco residents went to the polls on June 5, 2018, and voted to ban the sale of flavored tobacco in their city, including menthol cigarettes and certain vaping liquids. [1]

City supervisors initially approved a ban on flavored tobacco products, but a referendum picked up enough steam to collect the number of signatures needed to put the issue up for a public vote. Nearly 70% of voters ended up backing the proposition.

Melissa Welch with the American Heart Association said in a statement:

“San Francisco voters just sent a clear and resounding message: No amount of deceptive advertising will distract from the fact that candy flavors target kids.

We believe the success of Proposition E will encourage other cities to follow suit and end the sale of candy-flavored tobacco before nicotine addiction claims a new generation of young people.” [2]

Public health advocates overwhelmingly backed the policy, saying that flavored tobacco and vape liquid increase users’ risk of respiratory problems and tempt young people who might be considering trying tobacco for the first time. Not surprisingly, the tobacco and vaping industries were far less supportive of the proposal and argued that limiting access to vaping products could deter smokers from trying to kick the habit. [1]

Many people credit vaping with helping them to quit smoking, but the products may have the opposite effect among young people. In a study published earlier this year, researchers reported that in 2015, vaping helped more than 2,000 adults quit smoking, but 168,000 teens and young adults who used e-cigarettes went on to start smoking real cigarettes on a daily basis.

Vaping liquids come in every flavor you could imagine, from fruit to candy, appealing to young people and giving them the false impression that vaping is less addictive and less harmful than smoking cigarettes.

But that isn’t the only issue behind the policy. In 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stated that it would investigate the use of menthol in cigarettes, as studies show that mint-flavored tobacco may promote nicotine craving. Menthol binds to a specific nicotine receptor in the nerve cells, and can alter the receptor’s response to nicotine, according to scientists. [3]

Moreover, menthol has been found to trigger areas of the brain that process pleasure, reward, and addiction.

The FDA stated in the report:

“While there is little evidence to suggest that menthol cigarettes are more or less toxic or contribute more to disease risk to the user than non-menthol cigarettes, adequate data suggest that menthol use is likely associated with increased smoking initiation by youth and young adults.

The data indicate that menthol in cigarettes is likely associated with greater addiction. Menthol smokers show greater signs of nicotine dependence and are less likely to successfully quit smoking.”

The American Lung Association said of the impending ban in San Francisco:

“San Francisco’s youth are routinely bombarded with advertising for flavored tobacco and e-cigarettes every time they walk into a neighborhood convenience store. It’s clear that these products with candy themes and colorful packaging are geared towards teens.” [4]

Read: Study Shows Vaping and Cigarette Smoking Affect the Heart in Similar Ways

Millions of dollars were poured into the proposal from both sides of the aisle. Tobacco company R.J. Reynolds spent nearly $12 million trying to kill it, while former New York City mayor and public health advocate Michael Bloomberg gave more than $3 million to back it. [1]

Gil Duran, the spokesman for Campaign Yes on Proposition E, said:

“People have a really big dislike and big distrust for Big Tobacco companies and are not fooled by propaganda and tactics.” [4]

On the other hand, Greg Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, said:

“It is a travesty that anti-vaping extremists would mislead SF voters into making it harder for adult smokers to quit.”

The ban is set to take effect later this year.


[1] Time

[2] CBS News San Francisco

[3] Medical News Today

[4] CNN