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Round 2: Measure to overturn SF vape ban heads to November ballot

A legislative showdown is set to take place this November over San Francisco’s recently announced ban on all purchases of vaping products either online or through conventional brick-and-mortars.  On Wednesday, the city’s Department of Elections certified a Juul-funded ballot initiative seeking to overturn the prohibition. 

The action takes place less than one-month after City Attorney Dennis Herrera announced via Twitter that a citywide vape ban was “just common sense.”  Yet, strangely, Herrera’s proposal contains zero additional restrictions on the sales of combustible tobacco products and legalized marijuana.

Related Article:  It’s official: San Francisco totally nuts for banning vapes instead of tobacco

The vaping advocacy group Coalition for Reasonable Vaping Regulations (CRVR) spearheads the campaign to place the ballot initiative to overturn on the November ballot.   By quickly collecting over 9,400 signatures, CRVR officials were able to secure two-times the amount required for board certification.  Spokesperson Nate Allbee issued the following statement.

“This initiative will bring the strongest regulation for an age-restricted product in the City – more than alcohol and other tobacco products. We are confident voters do not want to ban the best mechanism for quitting smoking while leaving cigarettes, the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., on the shelves. These regulations are the best way to stop youth vaping.”

As Alllbee references, the measure does more than just repeal the San Francisco vape ban from last month.  If approved by voters, the ballot initiative will force retailers of vapor products to adhere to the same regulations as Big Tobacco, including age and geographic restrictions.  Vape products would need to be stored out-of-reach of customers, strict enforcement of photo identification before purchase will be required, and new limits on the total number of vape products purchased in a single transaction will also be installed.

History may not always repeat, but it often rhymes

News of the new ballot initiative is eerily reminiscent of an earlier event taking place in the Bay Area city almost exactly one year ago.  In June 2018, a proposal was placed on the ballot seeking to overturn a similar ban on the sales of certain e-liquid flavors.  But Prop E failed miserably at the ballot box by a margin of 3-1.

Will history repeat?  Will this latest measure to overturn the San Francisco vaping ban be met with a similar fate as Prop E?  While Prop E was an abysmal failure, this latest initiative has a significant ace up its sleeve which may make a considerable difference in the outcome.

Related Article:  San Francisco vaping gets a shellacking; Prop E passes & flavor ban goes in effect

Juul Labs, the world’s largest retailer of vapor products, is throwing $1.5 million at the problem, which can pay for a great deal of advertising campaigns to get the word out across the region.   It’s also particularly noteworthy that the Juul corporate home offices are located right smack dab in the middle of San Francisco, which means that Juul has a major reason for the ballot initiative to pass. 

But money isn’t everything, and the anti-vaping community in California has buckets full of cash, too.  In the age of Fake News and disinformation campaigns spreading on social media like wildfire – whether the topic of conversation is vaping, politics, or The Kardashians – the War on Vaping in San Francisco is about to get really, really ugly, really, really fast.

The future approval or denial by voters of the ballot initiative to overturn will certainly produce instant ramifications at the local level, but its ripple effects will be felt across the country and perhaps even abroad.  San Francisco may be the first city in the United States to ban vaping products, but many other municipalities across the globe are considering similar regulatory actions.  For the future of vaping nationwide, failure at the ballot box in November is simply not an option.   

 Related Article:  San Francisco proposed vaping ban is ‘moral absolutism,’ says R Street

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