Repealing Vape Ban Will Be an Uphill Struggle

The San Francisco E-Cig ban will be tried in the court of public opinion this November. As repoted by the San Francisco Examiner, the Coalition for Reasonable Vaping Regulations obtained more than double the 9,400 required signatures necessary to put the ecig ban to the voters.


“We have preserved access to a ballot measure on an upcoming San Francisco election and have the required signatures to move forward and ensure that underage access and use is addressed comprehensively, but adults aren't driven back to cigarettes, which kill 40,000 Californians a year,” Juul spokesman Ted Kwong told Forbes.


Repealing Vape Ban an Uphill Struggle


Putting this issue to the voters does not mean e-cigs are in the clear. In 2016, $22.6 million was spent by the soda industry in a failed effort to repeal a soda tax. A 2018 ban on flavored tobacco products, was also supported by San Francisco voters despite R.J. Reynolds pumping almost $13 million into getting it overturned by the voters. Juul has reportedly spent $1.5 million to pass the ballot initiative and overturn portions of e-cig ban.


The effort to the let the people of San Francisco decide the fate of smoke and ash free cigarette alternatives was greeted with scorn by San Francisco Supervisor Shamann Walton. Apparently, the vaping industry in general and Juul in particular are supposed to rollover and accept their destruction at the hands of ill-informed politicians.


According to Walton, “Juul will continue to work hard to deliberately deliver misguided messages to the residents here in San Francisco, I am excited that we have a voting populace that will see right through their messaging and know that their ballot measure focuses on regulations that are already in place.”


San Francisco E-Cig Ban Punishes Marginalized Groups


It will be interesting to see how voters view a San Francisco e-cig ban that punishes marginalized groups and funnels them back onto combustible cigarettes. The San Francisco ecig law has been heavily criticized.


One alarming revelation was that San Francisco's chief economist determined that a vape ban means more smoking. This is self-evident, but what was unusual is he made this determination before the law was passed. And did so in the context of tax revenues, assuring the city's board of supervisors that they would not lose out on tax revenue because the increase in cigarette sales and taxes would pick up the financial slack.


Betraying a History of Harm Reduction


Will San Franciscans betray their city’s tradition of embracing harm reduction policies? Or are they fine with punishing anyone who lacks the time, mobility or financial wherewithal to purchase vaping supplies outside of city limits.


Nicotine is apparently the only habit where total abstinence and complete prohibition are expected from the benighted masses.


Alcohol, which according to the CDC kills 4,300 minors annually and sends over 100,000 to the emergency certainly isn’t under this level of scrutiny. Could this be due to the fact that the wealthy have largely given up smoking but drink more frequently than any other group. San Francisco is also in the process of legalizing safe injection sites where IV drug use is supervised by medical professionals. 


Coalition for Reasonable Vaping Regulation


A letter outlining The Act to Prevent Youth Use of Vapor Products was submitted to the City Attorney last week. San Francisco based Juul, the largest e-cig manufacturer, is the primary sponsor of the Coalition for Reasonable Vaping Regulations and the corresponding ballot initiative.


According to Nate Allbee, spokesperson for the Coalition for Reasonable Vaping Regulation, “This initiative will bring the strongest regulation for an age-restricted product in the City – more than alcohol and other tobacco products. We are confident voters do not want to ban the best mechanism for quitting smoking while leaving cigarettes, the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., on the shelves. These regulations are the best way to stop youth vaping.”


Juul Backed Ballot Initiative Upholds Flavor Ban


The ballot initiative is written in a way which will leave the earlier ban on flavored tobacco, which covers ejuice, in place. In other words, the new law being voted on would benefit Juul. Refillable vape pods and compatible pods offer far more flavor options than Juul. A flavor ban would not impact Juul’s top-selling Mint flavor, but wipe out the competition. The irony is that adult smokers prefer the banned sweet vape juice flavors and Juul Mint is the flavor most popular with minors.


It is understandable that Juul would want to propose a bill that allays the fears of both fence-sitters and anti-vaping zealots. Protecting e-cigs and overturning a previous ban would be a tall order if the public is never smartened to the fact adults are the ones buying fruit and dessert vape juices. Using legislation to decimate potential rivals, when the industry itself faces an existential threat from overzealous lawmakers and regulators, is a dangerous game.


Anti-vaping activists will not be persuaded to vote against an e-cig ban because flavors are still prohibited. Tacitly agreeing with the notion that sweet vape juices are "kid friendly", when empirical evidence shows this is not the case, greatly weakens the position of the vaping industry.


Vaping Industry Needs a Unified Front


All political preferences and opinions aside, a unified front when lobbying has been shown to be more effective than attempting to game the system with piecemeal concessions that benefit your business and punish the competition within the industry.


While not taking a stance on this issue, I will ask this question: Would the NRA be as effective if hunting rifle manufacturers were supportive of legislation that bans hand guns? Don’t take this analogy out of context. I am not comparing vaping to firearms or evoking constitutional debates. The point is that working together is more effective than working at cross purposes. Giving critics an opening, even if rivals are more vulnerable to charges, is never a good idea.


The exact same schizoid paralogic used to justify a flavor ban can be just as easily applied to vaping in general.


Lending countenance to the arguments of vaping critics is the wrong move. Debunking their misinformation should be the priority. The failure of the vaping industry to accurately inform the public about the nature of their products and patterns of use may be its undoing.


Flavor Bans are a Slippery Slope


The consistent efforts to throw sweet ejuice flavors, the worst example being the federal SAFE Kids Act, under the bus is not backed by science, and represents an unnecessary concession to forces dead set on banning vaping entirely. Retro e-juice flavors, evoking the flavor profiles of Reagan-era candies and breakfast cereals, are certainly not targeting minors. Yet they have been the target of numerous state, local and national vaping ban initiatives.


Altria supports a flavor ban because their IQOS has been approved and is hitting the US market. If flavors are removed the equation, the device will only be competing with tobacco and menthol vapes.


Fruit and dessert flavors, especially the most fanciful high VG formulations, are being consumed by adults using vaping devices not popular with minors. A flavor ban would have no appreciable impact on the teen vaping epidemic.


Perhaps, the operating assumption is that politicians would back down after collecting a few scalps But this sort of assumption is founded on the belief that anti-vaping advocates would be satisfied with decimating mom and pop vape shops, ejuice manufacturers and a host of essentially faceless offshore device manufacturers.


I do not believe this is an accurate read of the room. Juul is unfairly maligned as the boogie-man by anti-vapers. They have been vilified by a curated slide show that is passed off as a study by Stanford University. They are the target. Critics won’t be distracted by vape juice that tastes like Skittles forever, especially if the use of prefilled pod systems by teenagers continues to increase.


Vapor4Life has no interest in selling our products to minors or non-smokers. We have a very strong lineup of tobacco and menthol flavors, meaning our business fortunes are not tied to a flavor ban. It is obvious that anti-vapers have found effective message, calling out brightly packaged vape juice flavors that have little to do with teen use but are memorable enough to catch the attention of the public at large.


The fruit flavor fallacy, the debunked zombie vaping myth that says fruit flavored vapes are appeal to and are marketed to children, should be debunked at every turn. Instead, the priority should be strict age verification and education. These were the methods used to tamp down smoking rates in the first place.