San Francisco Politicians Betray a Tradition of Harm Reduction
San Francisco’s embrace of harm reduction does not extend to smokers. It is ironic that a city which hands out 4.5 million syringes annually, and has pushed to open safe injection sites where illicit drug users can shoot up and safely ride out their buzz under clinical supervision, is unwilling to consider the health consequences of banning e-cigarettes.
If the City of San Francisco wanted to be uphold the ideals they claim to champion, they would permit vaping at defined public areas and supply e-cig mods to current smokers.
Juul Not Welcome In San Francisco
Embracing vaping as an alternative to cigarettes is not how San Francisco plans on addressing the scourge of smoking. As reported by CBS News, a pair of bills proposed at a San Francisco board of supervisors meeting would ban e-cigarette sales, and prevent vaping companies from operating within city limits.
City Supervisor Shamann Walton and City Attorney Dennis Herrera were responsible for a proposal which would ban companies that make, sell or distribute e-cigarettes from occupying city owned property. Walton said, “We don’t want them in our city.”
There is currently a law on the books which bans tobacco companies from operating out of San Francisco. The new law would add e-cigarette companies and vape shops to the list. Despite the saber rattling, Juul would be allowed to stay. Are they afraid of the consequences? Juul has 800 employees and generates approximately $2 billion in annual sales.
San Francisco E-Cig Ban
The other ecig bill is more politically feasible and would have serious consequences for smokers and vapers. It would ban the sale of e-cigarettes until the FDA evaluates their effect on public health. To expedite this evaluation, City Attorney Herrera also announced that San Francisco, New York and Chicago have sent a joint letter demanding that the FDA commence this evaluation immediately.
There is already a California wide e-cig prohibition in the works, but the twin San Francisco bills still mark an escalation of the war on vaping.
Juul released a statement concerning the proposed San Francisco e-cig laws. "We encourage the City of San Francisco to severely restrict youth access but do so in a way that preserves the opportunity to eliminate combustible cigarettes. This proposed legislation begs the question - why would the City be comfortable with combustible cigarettes being on shelves when we know they kill more than 480,000 Americans per year?"
FDA Grudgingly Acknowledges E-Cig Benefits
It must be noted that even FDA commissioner Gottlieb, a man who has made e-cigarette regulation his defining crusade, concedes that adult smokers benefit from transitioning to e-cigarettes from combustible cigarettes. During an interview with Fox News last week, Gottlieb made headlines for discussing a Juul and vape pod system ban. But he also stated:
"We believe these products are less harmful than smoking and for a currently addicted adult smoker who can quit cigarettes by migrating onto an e-cigarette they are probably having a positive impact on their health, and maybe a significant impact on their health."FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb
It is only the die-hard and ill-informed anti-vapers who refuse to acknowledge how e-cig bans can harm adult smokers.
San Francisco Should Follow UK’s Lead
San Francisco, a city that provides universal access to health care through the Healthy San Francisco program, would be wise to follow the lead of the UK’s National Health Service (NHS). This single payer system has fully embraced e-cigarettes as an alternative to smoking.
Because they are funded by taxpayers, the NHS has plenty of skin in the game and a track-record of abandoning health modalities that do not work or are not cost effective. A ban on homeopathy and herbal supplements are just two controversial cost cutting measures they have adopted.
Transitioning smokers to electronic cigarettes perfectly dovetails with the NHS’s mission to provide cost effective, commonsense solutions that improve the quality of life of all of their citizens.
The UK's unwillingness to sacrifice the lives of adult smokers in order to stamp out short term teen vaping trends stands in stark contrast to escalating regulations in the US and San Francisco's outright prohibition.
The authors of the San Francisco bills should visit the “Using E-Cigarettes to Stop Smoking” resource page on the NHS website, and stop relying on outmoded vaping myths to shape their worldview. These critics accept it as an article of faith that fruit flavors exist to hook children, and cannot comprehend the fact that retro e-juice packaging targets adults not minors.
This is why you have a national e-cig flavor ban, the SAFE Kids Act, being submitted to Congress. Which is a more plausible explanation of the teen vaping epidemic: E-Juices named after 1950s rock songs like Tutti Frutti, or the invention of a discrete, convenient, easy to conceal device that packs a much stronger nicotine hit.
Unlike “Tutti Frutti”, a supposed example of vape companies marketing to kids that was cited by the SAFE Kids Act author Diane DeGette (D-Colorado), the host of e-juices that incorporate sugar-coated breakfast cereal themes are targeting a younger generation. That generation is Generation X.
It is probably would have been wise for e-juice companies to refrain from making e-juice packaging resemble edible items. Engineering them to mimic popular flavors makes sense, but has allowed vaping opponents to paint a misleading picture. When e-juices too closely resemble famous brand name food products, there is also the potential for trade dress violations.
The use of creative e-juice packaging has nothing to do with children. It can be traced to the booming market for sweet flavors. A survey of 69,000 vapers by Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos determined that the majority of adults prefer fruit and dessert flavors. This has created an ejuice market with a glut of sweet flavors. Competition is fierce and it is difficult to stand out in a crowded field of worthy options.
Take a look at the FDA banned e-juice designs and it is obvious that some very talented designers came up with amazingly creative designs. These designs recall beloved flavors from decades ago.
How were e-juice companies to know that politicians would see a Nilla Wafers themed e-juice and think, “That is targeting kids!” The logical response would be, “I remember dunking those in milk and watching the moon landing.”
Another ridiculous example of this hysteria is Juul's Crème Brûlée flavor. They were pressured into changing the name to Creme last summer as part of the FDA crackdown on dessert e-juice marketing.
It remains unclear why naming a product after a decadent French inspired dessert, which peaked in popularity long before today's high school students were born, was viewed as such an egregious affront to decency.
The Crème Brûlée brand name is shared with Laura Mercier's upscale skincare line. In case you have any questions about who was being targeted by Juul Crème Brûlée pods, consider for a moment that the the Laura Mercier Crème Brûlée is available at Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdales.
Not exactly the favored haunts of today's high schooler, but an aspirational shopping destination for many adult women. This was also Juul's target audience.
The vilification of Juul Crème Brûlée is just another example of regulators identifying marketing strategies that would have appealed to them when they were young and concluding that today's minors must be the target. Times change and so do fads.
Why Is Vaping the Target?
Alcohol is a scourge that kills 5,000 teens annually, and 13.5 percent of high school students currently binge drink. Only 2.5 percent of high school students vape on a daily basis. Why is one largely ignored and the other is being legislated out of existence?
The failure of prohibition in the 1920s plays a role, but that was nearly a century ago. A bigger role is played by demographics and access to power. Drinking rates are highest among educated, high income adults.
Strict E-Cig Laws Harm Marginalized Groups
Vaping is an easy target because smokers and vapers are not heavily represented in upper income brackets. San Francisco has a reputation for adopting liberal policies like plastic bag and fur coat bans that place the city in direct conflict with business interests. E-cigarettes cannot be compared to a mink coat. Apart from Juul, the e-cig ban in San Francisco will strike hardest at smokers and the owners of mom and pop vape shops.
Strict e-cig laws harm marginalized groups. San Francisco may have a reputation as a bastion of LBGTQ rights, but an e-cigarette ban would have an enormous health impact on this community. CDC studies census identified members of the LBGT community were three times more likely to use electronic cigarettes: 7.5 percent versus 2.6 percent. This was the highest rate for any group surveyed.
A CDC study also found 20.3 percent of adults that identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual smoke cigarettes, versus an overall rate of 14 percent. Smoking kills over 30,000 members of the LGBTQ community annually and leads significant health disparities.
Smoking rates among the transgendered have been estimated at over 80 percent and studies have tied this to structural discrimination. Bisexual women are over twice as likely to smoke as heterosexual women.
The humane alternatives offered to IV drug users in San Francisco apparently do not apply to smokers. The gold standard for nicotine is either total forced abstinence or combustible cigarettes.
Rural Americans, the urban poor, and the African American community are also disproportionately impacted by e-cig bans. African Americans are the group most likely to avoid the dual use of cigarettes and e-cigarettes, and exclusively vape as a cessation tool.
A study published in the high impact New England Journal of Medicine sheds additional light on this subject. Researchers found that vaping crushes nicotine replacement therapy as a smoking cessation tool.
Teen Vaping- An Existential Threat to E-Cig Industry
The teen vaping epidemic poses an existential threat to the vaping industry. Foes of e-cigarettes have embraced radical measures in order to “protect the children”. It is unclear why education and age verification, the methods that successfully reduced teen smoking rates ten fold are no longer good enough.
At Vapor4Life, we have no interest in selling to minors. We provide cigarette alternatives to adult smokers.