If you are a vaper or a smoker looking for a cigarette alternative, it is impossible to miss the ominous clouds that are gathering. As reported here last week, San Francisco has banned the sale of e-cigarettes at stores, and purchases delivered to San Francisco addresses.
San Francisco E-Cig Ban Punishes Marginalized
That the San Francisco e-cig ban punishes marginalized seemed to have no influence on the final decision. The city’s board of supervisors has chosen to betray a legacy of humane, harm reduction policies.
The city that wants facilities where doctors can supervise IV drug use will not let you buy a vape pen, or even order one online. Why the contradictory impulses? Wouldn't it make more sense to enforce the current laws at the point of sale and punish retailers that sell to minors. Education and age verification are widely credited for reducing the smoking rate. Prohibition and total abstinence don't have the most enviable record when it comes to behaviors deemed "risky".
Could the utter absurdity of San Francisco’s ecig ban end up helping vaping as a whole, even as it punishes marginalized communities that the city claims to champion? The LGBTQ+ community smokes and vapes at a greater rate than any other group. A city once viewed as a safe harbor is willing to sacrifice their lives in the pursuit of the "greater good".
Will the San Francisco e-cig ban be the “Reefer Madness” moment where the shrill propaganda of vaping opponents is finally recognized as misinformation and hysterics? Will this ban be the Blue Boy episode of Dragnet that went too far, and took too many liberties with reality?
A fundamental difference is that those two examples, while not effective at reducing drug use, were merely forms of entertainment. The San Francisco E-Cig ban is a very real, and very punitive law. Concerns about the law are being expressed. Hopefully, a backlash against antediluvian and intrusive vaping laws will soon follow.
San Francisco Ban Questioned By Major Media Outlets
The San Francisco e-cig ban certainly has people talking. NBC News quoted a health expert who declared the ban “ludicrous”. Unless you believe there will now be nicotine abstinence or that smokers will choose to embrace the nicotine replacement therapies that were demolished by vaping in a New England Journal of Medicine study, it is impossible to ignore that the inevitable result of this ban will be vapers transitioning back to cigarettes. Or at least those who lack the mobility, time or financial wherewithal to purchase e-cigs in a surrounding community.
Why total abstinence is considered the gold-standard regarding nicotine, but widely mocked when any other risky behavior is an amazing example of cognitive dissonance. Especially in a city where millions of free needles are passed out annually.
San Francisco made this move even though former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb, no friend of vaping, has said on many occasions that it would be a net gain if all smokers switched to vaping. According to the Los Angeles Times editorial board, “San Francisco’s e-cigarette ban isn’t just bad policy, it’s bad for public health.”
Vape Ban Rooted In Hysterics and Not Science
The San Francisco e-cig ban is a knee-jerk reaction to the teen vaping epidemic, and not based on solid science. If you were not aware of San Francisco’s grudge match with local vaping titan Juul, you might expect the liberal bastion to look to the UK as an example.
The UK supports vaping as an alternative to smoking, and US politicians would be wise to visit their “Using E-Cigs to Stop Smoking” NHS resource page. Despite this embrace, or perhaps because of it, the UK has a lower rate of teen vaping than the US. But instead, San Francisco has embraced a puritanical, prohibitionist approach that embodies the very worst impulses social engineering.
While vaping is the target, marijuana use is viewed permissively in San Francisco. Yet more teenagers use marijuana than vape. More glaring is alcohol, a scourge that kills thousands of minors each year and sends hundreds of thousands to the ER according to the CDC. Yet there has been no move to add new restrictions on liquor. This is because the wealthiest and most educated, i.e. those who making these rules, drink more frequently than any other group.
The flip side of the coin is that the wealthy have also given up smoking. This is why there has been little backlash about strict e-cig laws that punish the marginalized. The San Francisco e-cig ban has laid this hypocrisy bare. The general public still is poorly informed on the issue, commonly linking retro ejuice packaging targeting adults to teen vaping. The fact is that the fanciful dessert and cereal vapes are enjoyed by mod users of legal, and the most popular device and flavor with teens is the menthol derivative Juul Mint.
Future of Vaping
It is worth noting here that the major decline in smoking does include most of the millennial generation. Millennial does not equal minor. The youngest members this age cohort are well into their 20s and the oldest are fast approaching 40.
We can only hope there is a major backlash against San Francisco’s e-cig ban, and the non-vaping public will wake up to the public health crisis that is brewing. We are not claiming that teen vaping is not a major issue. It clearly poses a threat to the vaping industry, and we have no interest in selling to minors, or to adults who are not smokers. This is why we have adopted the most rigorous age verification procedures and technology available today.
The lives of marginalized smokers and vapers matter every bit as much as any other citizen. It is easy to disregard people who engage in an activity that seems alien and disreputable. Zombie vaping myths have flooded the national consciousness with undiluted nonsense about e-cigarettes. But the same criteria used to justify vape bans could just as easily be applied to junk food, motor vehicles, alcohol, marijuana or cell phones.
Does prohibition work? Probably not. And there are always unintended consequences. Big tobacco is the big winner from the San Francisco vape ban. The losers are San Francisco tax payers, and those who are unable to access cigarette alternatives and resort once again to smoking.