In a move that has been approaching with grim inevitability for what feels like years, San Francisco has now voted to ban the sale of vaping products across the Californian city. There are still legislative processes to be fulfilled before the ordinance becomes law, and likely legal challenges to come which will delay implementation. Nevertheless smokers in the Golden City now face the prospect of being legally able to purchase cigarettes at their local convenience store, but not safer alternatives.
Historically the spiritual home of liberal attitudes in America, and more recently the central hub for progressive tech companies, San Francisco is a strange candidate to be the first US city to ban one of the most significant disruptive technologies in recent times. This is the latest piece of anti-vaping legislation passed by the City after a vote this time last year banning the sale of flavoured e-liquids, following a divisive campaign aggressively fought by an anti-vaping coalition funded by former mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg.
Ostensibly these bans are being introduced to tackle the alleged “youth vaping epidemic” in the US, a classic moral panic which has poisoned the vaping debate across the US. (N.B, we would recommend taking a look at Clive Bates’ thorough blogpost examining the so-called “epidemic” in the US).
There can be no doubt that the real impact of this move will mean a significant number of current vapers will relapse to conventional smoking, and push the existing vaping trade into the black market, where important issues like age restriction and product quality will be impossible to control. San Francisco has chosen the nuclear option and it will be left to consumers, public health practitioners, and local government to pick up the pieces for years to come.
This is only one example of the poor choices currently being made at the federal and state level in the US which risks the lives of smokers across the country. Whilst imperfect at times, it certainly makes you appreciate the enlightened approach that the UK Government is taking towards vaping products, putting evidence and public health at the centre of the decision-making process. We can only hope that more countries across the world choose to follow the example of Public Health England and the Department of Health, rather than the irrational actions of San Francisco and the Food and Drug Administration.