San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors approved a total ban on flavoured tobacco products – which legally includes e-liquids – last year. However, tobacco company RJ Reynolds organised a petition which gained enough signatures to force a ballot on the move. It’s now known as Proposition E and has been added to the city’s latest round of voting.
Many vaping advocacy groups are campaigning against Proposition E, but the biggest spender by far has been RJ Reynolds – the company has deployed around $12 million so far, mostly on advertising to explain the real impact of the ban. While most of the actual opposition is coming from consumers and small businesses that face oblivion if the law is passed, supporters of Prop E are focusing on the tobacco industry’s contribution.
Law will kill businesses, opponents say
Groups like the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, and anti-vaping academics from UCSF, claim the law will protect children from the alleged “gateway” effects of vapour products; according to them, its opponents want to addict young people to nicotine by hiding it behind flavours. In reality the loudest opponents are harm reduction advocates who argue that banning flavours will make it harder for smokers to quit, and convenience stores who say that if they can’t sell the products their customers come in for, they won’t sell all the other things those customers buy at the same time.
A local convenience store owner said, “If we don’t have our customer’s winter green chewing tobacco, he won’t come in and buy the food or drink or other products that keep our doors open”. These small shops usually run on tight margins, and Proposition E is likely to force many of them out of business.