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

While the nation was watching last night’s primary election results wondering about the possibility of a blue wave extending to California, the San Francisco vaping community was focusing on Proposition E.  By a margin of over 3-1, Prop E passed, paving the way for a regional ban on the sales of flavored e-liquids and tobacco products.  With nearly 100% of the votes counted at the time of this writing, 68 percent voted in favor of the ban compared to 31 percent against.

The battle over flavored vaping products has been a long and expensive one.  This time last year, many vapers were surprised to learn that city officials suddenly announced the passage of a local ordinance implementing a flavor ban.  The secretive political move was immediately met with contempt and outrage.  Vaping advocacy groups sprang into action and demanded a referendum.   But first, they would need to acquire signatures from some 19,040 area residents to be put in the June 6 ballot..

Related Article:  San Francisco refuses to repeal flavor ban; Referendum vote imminent

Thanks to the efforts of organizations like NotBlowingSmoke.org, the Consumer Advocates for Smoke Free Alternatives Association (CASAA), the American Vaping Association (AVA), and the Let’s Be Real, San Francisco (LBRSF) campaign, over 34,000 signatures were obtained – well over the required threshold.

The potential ripple effect of Prop E on vaping nationwide

As Election Day approached, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg contributed $3 million in support of the proposed flavor ban. Furthermore, just three days prior to the California primary, the Senate Health Committee of New York voted 14-1 in favor of enacting similar legislation.

Meanwhile, the tobacco company R.J. Reynolds contributed a whopping $12 million to stop Prop E from passing.  The optics of this political support from Big Tobacco may have been a contributing factor the Prop E’s passage.  Far too many Americans are still under the mistaken assumption that vapor products and tobacco products are one-in-the-same.   As an example, when CNN interviewed a spokesperson from Campaign Yes on Proposition E, Gill Duran issued the following statement.

"People really have a big dislike and big distrust for Big Tobacco companies and are not fooled by propaganda and tactics."

The basis of the argument in favor of Prop E is that flavored e-liquids tend to entice young children to vaping.  Supporting this claim are organizations that include the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, and the American Lung Association which also issued a statement supporting Prop E in the aftermath of the California primary.

"San Francisco's youth are routinely bombarded with advertising for flavored tobacco and e-cigarettes every time they walk into a neighborhood convenience store. It's clear that these products with candy themes and colorful packaging are geared towards teens."

To be fair, the press quoted several members of the vaping community, too.  Mr. Gregory Conley of the American Vaping Association used some very colorful language when expressing his contempt about the bill’s passage.

"It is a travesty that anti-vaping extremists would mislead SF voters into making it harder for adult smokers to quit."

Accepting defeat with grace and dignity was Stefan Didak, Founder and President of the Not Blowing Smoke organization.  Didak is a highly respected advocate of the vaping community and seems very aware of the possible ripple effect that Prop E’s passage may have on the rest of the nation. In addition to New York, Oakland and Berkley, California, and Chicago, Illinois, are just a few of the city governments with flavor ban legislation already in the works.  In a posting on his Facebook page, Didak offered the following commentary.

“The voters in San Francisco have spoken and unfortunately have decided to welcome the age of prohibition in the city. The flavor ban ordinance we’ve been fighting through a ballot measure will now come to pass….
While we have lost a city to prohibition we would like to highlight the importance of engaging on these issues when they arise. Several states and municipalities are also pushing forward with flavor bans and those will need to continue to be addressed. With other states like MN and PA adopting the CA Tobacco Control playbook on these matters there’s no time like the present to engage and help make a difference.”

Didak also takes time to extend his “sympathy and support” to San Francisco businesses and vape shops which will be adversely affected by Prop E in the form of perhaps millions of dollars in cumulative lost revenues annually. Meanwhile, area vapers must now rely on merchants outside of the Bay area to purchase their favorite flavors of e-liquid.

The American vaping community may have lost this battle over Prop E, but the War on Vaping continues.  CASAA has recently issued a Call-to-Action requesting that vapers express opposition to flavor ban legislation pending in New York.  Vaping enthusiasts regardless of their states of residence are strongly encouraged to get involved. 

Related Article: Yale economist: Vaping flavor bans will only increase sales for Big Tobacco

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