San Francisco’s upcoming ban on the sale of e-cigarettes will remain in place, as voters soundly rejected a ballot measure Tuesday that would have overturned the prohibition approved by the Board of Supervisors in June.
Proposition C was losing by 4-1. The measure would have allowed the sale of vaping devices and nicotine cartridges with some new restrictions. It would have limited the number of vaping products a person could buy to two devices and five packs of cartridges per transaction in brick-and-mortar stores, and two devices and 60 milliliters of nicotine liquid each month online.
The measure also would have required online sellers to apply for a permit, similar to what brick-and-mortar stores must do.
The regulations would have taken the place of the outright sales ban on e-cigarettes that supervisors approved to combat the rise in teen vaping. The legislation, slated to take effect in January, suspends the sale of e-cigarettes that have not passed a Food and Drug Administration review — which includes all e-cigarettes now on the market. But the ban may not be permanent; it would be lifted for any e-cigarettes that eventually pass FDA review.
Prop. C — dubbed “An Act to Prevent Youth Use of Vapor Products” — was this election’s big-ticket item from the start. It was sponsored by the San Francisco vaping company Juul, in an attempt to stave off the ordinance that would prohibit the company from selling its products in its own hometown.
Juul spent nearly $19 million to promote Prop. C through the Coalition for Reasonable Vaping Regulation — a campaign committee — before abruptly withdrawing its financial support in late September amid scrutiny from regulators and lawmakers critical of the company’s marketing tactics to youth.
A recent spate of vaping-related lung illnesses and deaths, despite being linked mostly to illicit THC products, also dealt a blow to public perception of vaping.
Prop. C drew a backlash from public health groups, parents and local and national officials. The No on C campaign’s biggest financial backer was billionaire and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who put in $7.1 million to defeat the measure as part of his $160 million campaign to reduce youth vaping nationwide.
City Attorney Dennis Herrera, who co-authored the e-cigarette ban legislation with Supervisor Shamann Walton, applauded the measure’s demise.
“San Francisco voters are too smart to be fooled by Juul,” Herrera said in a statement. “Juul is Big Tobacco, and it’s using a classic ploy from the Big Tobacco playbook to try and hook another generation of kids on nicotine. Voters saw right through Juul’s deception.”
Juul declined to comment on the election results, referring to a statement that company CEO K.C. Crosthwaite made in September, when the firm announced it was withdrawing its support for Prop. C as part of a company-wide review of policies.
“This decision does not change the fact that as a San Francisco-founded and headquartered company we remain committed to the city,” Crosthwaite said.