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San Francisco becomes first U.S. city to ban sales of e-cigarettes

Christian Fernsby |
San Francisco's Board of Supervisors Tuesday voted unanimously to outlaw the sale of electronic-cigarettes across the city, which also includes online delivery of vaping products to an off-line recipient.

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The legislation made San Francisco the first U.S. city to approve an ordinance that bans the distribution and sale of e-cigarettes in brick-and-mortar stores and online shops.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed, who has earlier expressed support for the measure, has 10 days to sign off the bill, and the ordinance will be fully implemented in six months.

"This is a decisive step to help prevent another generation of San Francisco children from becoming addicted to nicotine," said City Attorney Dennis Herrera who co-authored the ordinance.

"San Francisco is taking action to protect our kids ... E-cigarettes are a product that, by law, are not allowed on the market without FDA review," he said in a statement released by his office.

Juul Labs, the biggest producer of e-cigarettes in the United States based in San Francisco, has argued that vaping is a healthier alternative to smoking tobacco.

"This full prohibition will drive former adult smokers who successfully switched to vapor products back to deadly cigarettes, deny the opportunity to switch for current adult smokers, and create a thriving black market instead of addressing the actual causes of underage access and use," said Juul spokesman Ted Kwong.

The company said it supports stricter regulation and enforcement, instead of total prohibition, of e-cigarettes consumption, and proposed some new measures including electronic age verification technology to minimize the impact of vaping.

U.S. federal law sets 18 years as the minimum age required to buy tobacco products while California puts the limit at 21 years old.

A national survey by the University of Michigan in 2018 showed that one in five high school seniors reported vaping and even eighth-graders were consuming e-cigarettes in record numbers.

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