San Francisco residents are heading to the voting booth on June 5 to cast their ballots either for or against a citywide ban on the sales of flavored tobacco products. Advocates of Proposition E are primarily targeting menthol cigarettes, but their expanded portfolio of perceived pernicious products also includes several varieties of smokeless tobacco, cigars, and e-liquids.
Even the former mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg is getting in on the action. The billionaire vaping hater donated $2 million to supporters of the legislation. Meanwhile, Big Tobacco’s R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company has contributed a whopping $12 million to the No on Prop E campaign. Like it or not, Big Tobacco and vaping are once again undeniably linked – at least in the California Bay area.
Origins of Proposition E
Last year, city supervisors unanimously approved a bill that would ban the sales of all flavored tobacco products, claiming that certain flavors like mint (or menthol), caramel, and mango are just too effective in masking the nicotine harshness in cigarettes, cigars, and e-cigs. They further assert that this nicotine masking only makes these related products even more attractive to children and young adults. Therefore, by their reasoning, all flavored tobacco products must go. However, any traditional tobacco flavors should be allowed to remain available in the marketplace.
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The ordinance was slated to take effect last April, but vaping advocacy groups immediately began pounding the pavement pushing for enough signatures to demand a ballot initiative in the hopes of repealing the previously passed legislation. That vote is now only one short week away. If San Francisco passes its flavor ban, many political analysts predict that similar local ordinances will begin to take shape across the nation.
Calls to ban vaping flavors gaining traction
In fact, many city governments are already jumping onboard the flavor ban bandwagon. Oakland, Berkeley, San Leandro, and Contra Costa, California are just a few of the many metropolitan areas following the path that San Francisco originated last year. On the East Coast, Connecticut’s Senator Richard Blumenthal and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York have been issuing a long series of press releases and interviews calling for a nationwide flavor ban. And just a few short weeks ago, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the launching of a federal probe into the alleged dangers of kid-appealing e-liquids.
Opponents of Proposition E claim that a ban of flavored e-liquids will very likely drive thousands of Bay Area vapers right back into the arms of Big Tobacco. Kids are not the only ones who like dessert flavored vapes, after all.
But former smokers-turned-vapers are not the only ones against the proposed ban. Owners of small businesses such as convenience stores, vape shops, and e-liquid manufacturing stand to lose a substantial portion of their financial income. Many may even be forced to close their doors permanently.
There is no question that the June 5 vote on Proposition E will have national consequences. The situation is so urgent that the No on Prop E campaign is holding a rally on the steps of the San Francisco City Hall on Thursday, May 31 at 10:30 AM. All vaping enthusiasts and opponents of Proposition E are encouraged to attend, whether they reside in the Bay Area or not.
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