Health and Science

San Francisco officials look to ban sale of e-cigarettes

Key Points
  • San Francisco officials proposed legislation that would ban the sale of e-cigarettes until a review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
  • The move is part of the city's efforts to tackle underage vaping.

San Francisco officials on Tuesday proposed legislation that would ban the sale of e-cigarettes from companies such as Juul until a review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, as part of the city's efforts to tackle underage vaping.

District Supervisor Shamann Walton will also introduce legislation at a meeting of the city's board of supervisors to prohibit the manufacture and distribution of all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, on city property.

A statement from the City Attorney's office said the legislation would prevent e-cigarette company Juul from expanding on city property if engaged in the sale, manufacture and distribution of tobacco products.

Juul is the largest U.S. e-cigarette maker. Shares of Altria, which holds a 35 percent stake in the company, closed down 2.3 percent.

Chris Ratcliffe | Bloomberg | Getty Images

"By law, before a new tobacco product goes to market, the Food and Drug Administration is supposed to conduct a review to evaluate its impact on public health. Inexplicably, the FDA has failed to do its job when it comes to e-cigarettes," City Attorney Dennis Herrera said.

Earlier in March, the FDA released formal plans to curb the sale of flavored e-cigarettes and slow a surge in teenage use of the popular nicotine devices.

The proposal also mandated makers of e-cigarette products to submit a formal application to the FDA by August 2021 in order to keep selling them, a year earlier than previously proposed.

FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb said on Tuesday that the regulator should consider whether pod-based nicotine products should be sold at all given the recent increase in the use of the products by American teens.

"I'm having debates about whether or not flavored products should be sold in convenience stores and I think the real debate is whether or not any of these products should be sold in convenience stores," Gottlieb, who is leaving the agency, said at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

A Juul spokesman said the proposed legislation would only limit adult smokers' access to products that could help them switch away from combustible cigarettes. 

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Key Points
  • Switching to Juul e-cigarettes reduced smokers' risk to cigarette toxins at similar levels to quitting entirely, according to results from a clinical trial.
  • Juul presented the results Saturday at the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco's annual meeting.
  • The data could help bolster Juul's credibility as a smoking cessation tool for adults while the company fends off criticism that it has fueled an epidemic of teen e-cigarette use.