Two San Francisco officials introduced legislation Tuesday that would ban the sale of e-cigarettes in the city until the U.S. Food and Drug Administration evaluates the effect of electronic cigarettes on public health. Supporters say if the measure is approved, it would be the first such prohibition in the country. Its chances aren't clear.
City Attorney Dennis Herrera and Supervisor Shamann Walton also proposed a bill at a Board of Supervisors meeting that would prohibit companies that make, sell and distribute tobacco products such as e-cigarettes from occupying city-owned property.
The San Francisco Chronicle explains that tobacco companies are already barred from doing business on city property, but the legislation would specifically add e-cigarettes to that ban.
It wouldn't apply retroactively, so Juul Labs, a major manufacturer of e-cigarettes, would be allowed to stay in space it rents for its headquarters on Port of San Francisco property on Pier 70. But, says the Chronicle, e-cigarette companies wouldn't be able to lease city property in the future.
The property Juul occupies is in Walton's district.
But he says bluntly, "We don't want them in our city."
Anti-tobacco activists say e-cigarette makers target kids by offering products in candy flavors and using marketing that portrays their products as flashy gadgets.
"We have people addicted to nicotine who would have never smoked a cigarette had it not been for the attractive products that target our young people," said Walton, a former president of the San Francisco Board of Education.
Juul said in a statement to CBS News that the proposed legislation would limit adult smokers' access e-cigarettes that could help them kick regular smoking habits.
"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," Juul said."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?"
Herrera said San Francisco, Chicago and New York sent a joint letter demanding that the FDA begin its review. He said the review should have been done before e-cigarettes ever hit the market.
The FDA released proposed guidelines last week giving companies until 2021 to submit applications for the evaluation.
"The result is that millions of children are already addicted to e-cigarettes and millions more will follow if we don't act," Herrera said Tuesday.
Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is addictive and can harm adolescent brains that are still developing. In the U.S., youth are more likely than adults to use e-cigarettes.
San Francisco was the first city in the United States to approve an outright ban on the sale of flavored tobacco and flavored vaping liquids, which voters upheld in 2018. The city prohibits smoking in parks and public squares and doesn't allow smokeless tobacco at its playing fields.
The city has often been on the forefront in passing liberal social policies that clash with business interests, whether it's banning single-use plastic bags or the sale of fur products.
The FDA declined immediate comment on the letter from the three cities.
Manufacturers were supposed to submit most products for review by August 2018, but FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb in 2017 delayed the deadline until 2022. He said at the time that both the agency and the industry needed more time to prepare.
The agency unveiled proposed guidelines last week moving up the deadline to August 2021 and restricting sales of most flavored products to stores that verify the age of customers upon entry or that use a separate, age-restricted area for vaping products.
In 2018, more than 3.6 million U.S. middle and high school students used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days, including nearly 5 percent of middle school students and nearly 21 percent of high school students, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.