Last month, San Francisco’s supervisors approved a total e-cig ban in a unanimous preliminary vote. “We spent the 90s battling big tobacco, and now we see its new form in e-cigarettes,” said supervisor Shamann Walton. “This is about thinking about the next generation of users and thinking about protecting the overall health and sending a message to the rest of the state and the country: follow our lead,” added supervisor Ahsha Safaí.
Under the new law, it will be illegal for any retailers in San Francisco to sell vaping products, and for online vendors to ship them to addresses in the city, until the time the FDA officially grants them a PMTA
There are a few months left before the ban comes into effect and there is at least one attempt to overturn it underway. However if things remain unchanged, the total e-cigarette ban will go into full effect in January next year.
Under the new legislation, it will be illegal for any retailers in San Francisco to sell vaping products, and for online vendors to ship them to addresses in the city, until the time the FDA officially reviews the products and grants them a Pre Market Tobacco Authorisation (PMTA). In the meantime the city’s residents will have to buy their devices and liquid, in neighbouring towns – or simply go back to smoking cigarettes, which ironically will remain on sale across the city.
Meanwhile, back in the UK the NHS is constantly looking for ways to encourage more smokers to switch to the proven safer alternatives. According to an article on The Guardian, just this week in the north-east of England, an NHS taskforce has urged doctors and nurses to talk to patients about smoking and reassure them that vaping is safer.
The divide in approaches between the US and the UK
The article points out that “the transatlantic divide over e-cigarettes is profound, “rooted in social and ideological differences”. Public Health England (PHE) has been leading the movement in favour of using the devices for harm reduction. In 2018, the organization released findings from an e-cigarette review that was conducted by leading independent tobacco experts, and updated the organization’s 2015 vaping report.
San Francisco is very much “at one end of the spectrum – the abstinence-only, prohibition-style approach”
Martin Dockrell, the head of tobacco control at PHE, said that the US and the UK are at opposite ends of the spectrum with regards to vaping. San Francisco is very much “at one end of the spectrum – the abstinence-only, prohibition-style approach”, he said. While abstinence-only is the dominant view in tobacco control, “they also apply that to nicotine replacement therapy but also to e-cigarettes”.
He spoke about the widespread concern about teen vaping found across the States, and said that meanwhile the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the federal government had recognised e-cigarettes could play an “off-ramp” role in helping smokers quit, but are concerned about the “on-ramp”.
“In San Francisco, they have just abandoned any thought that e-cigarettes might be a significant off-ramp and they are only concerned about young people starting to use nicotine,” added Dockrell.
Of all the legal risky substances, SF has banned the safest
“Interestingly, they haven’t banned vaping cannabis. It’s still legal to vape cannabis and worse still, to smoke cannabis. It’s clear that the harm from smoking anything is much greater.
“Alcohol, smoked tobacco, cannabis, smoking or vaping – all of them are legal but the least harmful is e-cigarettes and they’ve banned them. Not just sales to young people, which we’ve done in this country, but for adults too. That is particularly difficult to understand.”