Over the past few months in the US, a number of states have been raising the age for tobacco products (including e-cigarettes) to 21. With increasing concern over teen vaping being the main motivating factor, 16 states have raised the age with many more cities in peripheral states having followed suit. California are one of the states that have already introduced Tobacco 21 but there have been significant changes in San Francisco specifically regarding e-cigarette use. Country-wide there have been proposals from some cities considering banning flavoured e-liquids. However, San Francisco was the first to implement a complete flavour ban in January this year and are now in the process of banning the sale of e-cigarettes entirely.
While the legislation still has ten days to pass, San Francisco mayor London Breed has indicated she’ll sign it off in that time frame. Once signed, the law would come into full effect seven months after. It’s likely that it will be contested in court by e-cigarette manufacturers, one of the most likely companies to do so is Juul.
Juul currently hold a whopping 76% market share in the States with a $38bn value. Late last year Juul received a significant investment from Big Tobacco’s Altria who took a 35% stake in the startup. The vaping giant have their headquarter offices in San Francisco. Juul also recently announced plans to open retail stores for their product which would enforce a strict 21 and over policy nationwide. An e-cigarette sale ban may well put a damper on their next venture before it’s even started. Juul have criticised the proposed law change stating it’ll create a black market within the city.
Much of the concern over the safety of e-cigarettes in the US stems from the lack of FDA testing. The FDA gained control over e-cigarette regulation back in 2016 but have still yet to approve any devices currently available on the US market. Shortly before he stepped down, the previous commissioner Scott Gottlieb brought the deadline for testing back from 2022 to 2021. Despite this, in May the FDA was taken to court by a federal judge and a number of anti-smoking health organisations. The ruling was that the FDA had been negligent in allowing the sale of untested products. They’re now in the process of reviewing all vaping products available in the US.
Another factor relating to the concerns surrounding vaping in America is the prevalence of flavoured pods. While many smokers are now using fruit and dessert flavours to switch to vaping, many anti-vaping activists believe these make e-cigarettes more appealing to a younger audience. To counteract this, Juul had already removed their dessert, cucumber and fruit flavoured pods from stores country wide and introduced a strict age verification system on their website.
Despite the concern over the safety of e-cigarettes and aside from the increased age from 18 to 21, tobacco products like cigarettes will still be legal to sell in San Francisco. Unfortunately, the research and understanding of vaping and their efficacy in helping people quit smoking isn’t as widely available in the US compared to the UK. Here, we’ve got Public Health England supporting vaping saying it’s at least 95% safer(2) and the NHS have released research indicating there’s no correlation between vaping and an uptake in smoking cigarettes in underage users(1). While age verification and reducing underage use is important, it’s unfortunate that this ban may remove a viable option many San Franciscans could be using to move away from conventional cigarettes.
Read the original BBC article here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-48752929
- E-cigarettes 'do not promote smoking in teens' - https://www.nhs.uk/news/pregnancy-and-child/e-cigarettes-do-not-promote-smoking-teens/
- E-cigarettes around 95% less harmful than tobacco estimates landmark review https://www.gov.uk/government/news/e-cigarettes-around-95-less-harmful-than-tobacco-estimates-landmark-review