San Francisco Officials Propose Controversial Regulations On E-Cigarettes

Following in the footsteps of New York’s former Mayor Bloomberg, San Francisco Supervisors plan to announce Monday morning a proposal to add e-cigarettes to restrictions already in place against tobacco smoking. The measure is at least partially motivated by concerns that teens are being targeted by companies, while the jury is out on the safety of e-cigarettes.

San Francisco Supervisor Eric Mar sponsors the ordinance, citing “exponential” growth in the popular device among young people and tactics such as adding cotton candy and other flavors to attract new users. The father of a teenage daughter sees the media as “normalizing the smoking after several decades of anti-tobacco work to keep cigarettes out of television ads and magazines,” and wants San Francisco to restrict access to the devices.

San Francisco is the latest in a string of municipalities aiming to regulate electronic cigarettes. Los Angeles is working on restrictions, following in the footsteps of Chicago and New York City.

New York was the first major city to draft such laws, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed the ban into law on his final day in office. This was just the latest in a string of “nanny state” regulations put in place by the billionaire mayor, the most criticized being his sanctimonious restriction on the size of soft drinks.

Restrictions proposed for San Francisco would amend the City’s health code, requiring a tobacco permit to sell the e-cigarettes and prohibiting their sale in places where tobacco sales are already prohibited. “Vaping,” the term used for inhaling the vapors as opposed to smoking, would be prohibited wherever smoking is prohibited.

Critics of proposals such as these in San Francisco argue that electronic cigarettes are much safer than tobacco cigarettes, and restricting their use might lead some smokers to believe that they are just as bad for them, so why quit. Charles Connor, former president and CEO of the American Lung Association, lost his mother last year from smoking-related illness, and thus advocates the use of alternatives to smoking:

Above all else, the role of our government should be to further advance the nation’s efforts to reduce the harm and death toll caused by combustible tobacco products… Electronic cigarettes are poised to revolutionize the tobacco industry by one day making traditional cigarettes obsolete. By impulsively and inaccurately lumping vaping in with traditional cigarette smoking, a ban on these game-changing devices will discourage other smokers from trying a positive alternative.

However, many medical groups and the FDA oppose e-cigarettes, supporting regulations such as are being proposed by the San Francisco Supervisors. They still contain some of the harmful component like nicotine, sans the toxic tar. And that is cause for concern, some say. Many, including Supervisor Eric Mar, are worried that they might be a gateway to more harmful habits.

After its scheduled announcement at 11am Monday morning, the proposed legislation will be heard on Thursday by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Rules Committee.

Do you think that that this is the proper role of city officials, or is San Francisco another insane example of government taking things too far?

[Image Via Shutterstock By Marc Bruxelle]