The Banning Board | Libertarian Party of San Francisco

The Banning Board

As usual, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors feels the need to act like our mothers and fathers. Recently they voted unanimously to ban the sale of flavored nicotine-based liquid used in e-cigarettes and flavored tobacco products in San Francisco. The justification of the ban is that nicotine masked in fruity flavors like cotton candy, banana cream, mint, and other flavors entices children into the sordid life of nicotine addiction. Another "Save The Children" law. Supervisor Malia Cohen, who represents the historically black Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood, also doesn’t think too highly of the intelligence of adults in black neighborhoods and the LGBT community since she said, "Big Tobacco loves vulnerable populations. They advertise 10 times more in black neighborhoods, and market gummy bears and cotton candy flavors near schools and in the LGBT community." These adults apparently must be treated and “protected” like children too.

What do the scientists have to say about vaping? Regardless of what the Board of Supervisors proclaims, as with so many issues, there is no consensus. The pro-vaping scientists say the benefits of vaping as a no-smoking aid outweigh potential harms. They point to the estimated 480,000 deaths in the US annually attributed to smoking and note that if vaping can help reduce the horrendous damage of cigarette smoke, then the government should not be making it harder to obtain such products. They point out that nicotine, while powerfully addictive and present in both tobacco and e-cigarettes, is not the cause of cancer, lung disease, or vascular disease—rather, it’s the combustion products of smoke that cause all the health problems. On the other side, the anti-vaping scientists say studies show that folks using e-cigarettes were less likely to quit smoking tobacco and most e-cigarette users continue to smoke tobacco. The point out that the e-cigarette market has evolved quickly in recent years, and most of the earlier studies were on first-generation products, while many of the products available today have not been studied enough. They concede that while some of the newer vaping products may deliver nicotine more efficiently than the earlier products, which should make them better quitting tools, they also generate more heat and produce more chemicals and fine particles, which could create new health problems. Clearly, the science is not settled on this issue yet.

It's also notable that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report recently that found the number of high school and middle school students using e-cigarettes dropped from 3 million in 2015 to 2.2 million in 2016. The CDC also estimated that tobacco use among high school and middle schoolers showed a similar drop from 4.7 million in 2015 to 3.9 million in 2016. But even this trend in the healthier direction was not good enough for the Board of Supervisors.

Then there's the issue of the ban hurting San Francisco small businesses, which the Board proclaims to champion but passes one ordinance and mandate after another which hurt mom and pop stores. Small businesses complained that flavored tobacco products are anchor products that bring folks in to their stores, and it’s hard enough trying to compete with big-box stores like Safeway and Walgreen’s, not to mention online retailers, without losing up to 15% of your sales due to the ban. Customers can just as easily buy the banned flavors in nearby cities or simply order them online and have them delivered to their San Francisco residences. Not to worry though, promises Cohen—government will come charging to the rescue: she said that she would support increased city funding to “help” small stores adjust their business models under the Healthy Food Retail program. Hmm... we pass that a law that creates a new problem, but we will spend hard-earned taxpayer money to try and solve the problem we created with another useless bureaucrat’s "program."

Of course none of this should matter regarding "protecting" the kids, since just last year, the Board of Supervisors passed a law banning the sale of all tobacco products (including e-cigarettes) to anyone under 21. Since we know how effective such ridiculous laws are—as none of us has ever seen anyone under 21 smoking since the law went into effect!—just who were the supervisors protecting when they passed this latest ban? Apparently the work of The Nanny State will never be done.