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San Francisco Flavour Ban Passes

In a huge blow to vapers and vendors in the Bay Area, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors unanimously voted on Tuesday to ban all sales of flavoured tobacco products within the city’s boundaries.

According to Supervisor Malia Cohen, the driving force behind the ban, its main target is menthol cigarettes. These are something of an obsession with US tobacco controllers, as they’re very popular among African Americans and the LGBT community. Cohen and others believe that if menthol cigs aren’t available, people who smoke them will quit rather than switching to unflavoured brands.

Unfortunately for vapers, the law is written to indiscriminately ban anything that’s legally classified as a tobacco product and contains flavourings. This effectively makes it impossible for vape shops to operate in the city, as these businesses depend on liquids for the majority of their sales. It’s not 100% clear whether all liquids will be affected; the San Francisco law refers specifically to liquids that contain nicotine, but the FDA’s Deeming Regulations can be interpreted as classing nicotine-free liquid as a tobacco product, too – and in any case these are a minority of sales. For most vape shops in the city this law, which comes into effect on 1 January 2018, is likely to be the end of the road.

Hong Kong Cracks Down On E-Liquid Sales

On Tuesday a 22-year-old Hong Kong man was arrested for illegally selling nicotine-containing e-liquids. If convicted he could face a fine of up to $100,000 and two years in jail for each of three offences.

In Hong Kong, any e-liquid which contains nicotine is classed as a pharmaceutical product and needs approval from the Pharmacy And Poisons Board before it can be legally sold. Even when approved they can only be sold in a licensed pharmacy under the supervision of a pharmacist. Because of the city-state’s powerful and anti-vaping bureaucracy, approval is almost impossible to obtain – and the predictable result has been the growth of a lively, mostly online, black market.

According to reports, the man arrested on Tuesday had been selling e-liquid via social media. Following a “public complaint” a joint investigation was launched by the Department of Health and Hong Kong police, leading to his arrest. The Department of Health are now urging anyone who has bought e-liquid to stop using it immediately, and to take it to a DH office for disposal. Instead, says the DH, they should use government-provided stop smoking services. Hong Kong, like the rest of China, has some of the highest smoking rates in the world – suggesting that these services are less than completely effective.

Australian Health Experts Back Vaping

Few nations are as famously hostile to vaping as Australia, but now a pair of enterprising politicians are trying to restore some sanity to the situation – and they’ve been publicly backed by 135 leading Australian and international health experts.

The Therapeutic Goods Amendment (2016 Measures No. 1) Bill, introduced as a private member’s bill by pro-freedom Senators David Leyonhjelm and Malcolm Roberts, would remove nicotine-containing e-liquid from Australia’s draconian poisons laws and allow them to be legally sold to the country’s estimates one million vapers. It’s due for official discussion in the next parliamentary session, but is likely to face strong opposition from the Therapeutic Goods Administration and prominent activists; Simon Chapman, a Sydney pensioner, is a particularly fierce opponent of legalisation.

Now a long list of experts in medicine and tobacco control have put their signatures on a letter supporting Leyonhjelm’s amendment, arguing that “Australia is increasingly out of step with other countries with this important public health opportunity”, and asking the government to exempt low concentrations of nicotine from poisons law. Signatories include Professors John Britton, Karl Fagerstrom, Riccardo Polosa and Ann McNeill.

Austin, TX Adds Vaping To Smoking Ban

Texas’s self-proclaimed most liberal city has joined the depressing list of cities to treat vaping the same as smoking. On Thursday the Austin City Council voted to add electronic cigarettes to the city’s long-standing ban on smoking in public places.

Austin’s smoking ban is an extensive one, covering bars, restaurants and all other enclosed public spaces, but also extending its reach to the city’s parks and a buffer zone around publicly-owned buildings. The new law is being rushed into place and will take effect on 3 July – ironically, the day before the Independence Day holiday which celebrates the USA’s freedom.