San Francisco moves to ban - horrors! - e-cigarettes

In a city that permits pot smoking, distributes free needles to heroin-addicted junkies, sticks up for its sanctuary city status even as locals get shot, and permits the entire cityscape to become the homeless community's public bathroom, San Francisco's Board of Supervisors has decided to ban ... e-cigarettes, which are a kind of vaping.

For its own good, of course.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle:

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously voted to approve first-of-its-kind legislation to suspend the sale of e-cigarettes in the city, amid concerns over underage use of the addictive nicotine products. The measure is already being challenged by the nation’s largest e-cigarette company, Juul, which is laying the groundwork to take the issue to voters in November.

The bill still requires final approval, but the board voted 11-0 to pass the ordinance on the first reading, telegraphing its intent to make it official as early as next week.

The measure, if passed, would go into effect seven months after it is signed by the mayor. It would halt the sale of e-cigarettes in San Francisco’s brick-and-mortar stores and bar the delivery of e-cigarettes bought online to San Francisco addresses until the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reviews the safety of the products, which it has not yet done.


It's complete lunacy, starting on merit grounds alone. Vaping is not an evil thing, and neither are e-cigarettes, which are the poor-man's version of vaping. Vaping is a hipster thing found mostly in urban areas, where people who vape typically will go to a vape shop loaded with kitchen-table-created specialities, pick out the flavors of vape fluid and nicotine they like, place them into their vape pipes (sometimes fancy or custom-made), and then steam up a storm. Sometimes they do it at the shop bar, sometimes they take it home or vape in their cars or on the streets. It's not a completely nicotine-free endeavor but it's far less risky than real cigarettes or cigars because vaping has fewer chemicals. It also doesn't stink, it doesn't hold significant risk to anyone inhaling the steam, and it often helps people who otherwise smoke quit. That's because the people who vape can adjust the level of nicotine within their devices to gradually lower the levels to the point where it's not difficult to quit. E-cigarettes are pre-packaged cartridges where the nicotine level cannot be adjusted and the flavors tend to be predictable ones, such as menthol, but they are nevertheless popular, too, often purchased in convenience stores.

I investigated vaping in a long piece that ran in the New York Observer a couple years ago and learned all this stuff. I was completely neutral about the matter before I started. I learned a lot about why people vape and how vaping works, particularly with its valuable role in helping customers drop their tobacco habits and nicotine addictions. I learned that it was a social thing, and smokers and non-smokers often compromised to vape together so they could mix company without the non-smokers getting sick from the smell. The other thing I learned was how questionable the FDA was, refusing to answer reporter questions, taking forever to approve vaping or e-cigs, refusing to admit that vaping is less harmful than smoking, and operating a revolving door with related lobbies. And most appalling, I learned it was not Big Tobacco that was trying to stomp out a rival, it was Big Pharma, which had smoking cessation devices of its own to market, with a lot of Democratic politicians on its string. Democrats playing Mrs. Grundy, trying to take away the hipster punch bowl? If there's enough money involved, it seems to be their story.

Which draws attention to a couple of details. Juul Labs, which makes the targeted e-cigarettes about to be banned, is headquartered in San Francisco. It's a successful company, with 1,500 employees and $2 billion in market cap on $1 billion in revenue at the very least, and it may be greater now. Why would San Francisco be targeting one of its own homegrown companies, this city that permits pot and poop on the streets, and along with it, all vaping, really, because we are talking about an actual ban? Not only are they targeting what must be a big taxpaying entity for their city, they are also targeting the native flora and fauna of that city, which is its famous hipsters. It is the city of Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Jack Kerouac, after all. Why?

It almost makes one wonder if there could be the Big Pharma-war-on-Big Vape going on. Might there be some Big Pharma in that city that really wants to make vaping or e-cigs a bannable thing nationwide as other cities take their cue from politically correct San Francisco? I have no information on this, but it's probably worth noting that McKesson, a Fortune 100 mega-star, has a big glassy skyscraper headquarters in San Francisco - and what a coincidence, makes a smoking cessation product. They may not be involved in this stupidity, but so far nobody's asking. And they may not be the only one, either. Could there be other players putting the squeeze to upstart Juul (founded in 2015)? It's well worth looking at now that the craziness has reached even the hipsters who vote for these people.

In any case, the decision is bad, it's an extension of the city's straw ban, plastic bag ban, and all the other Big Brother bans that make San Francisco more politically correct than liveable. Nothing is solved with these bans and quality of life is never improved any more than the earth is saved. All this ban will do is drive vaping and e-cigs underground, where the taxmen can't visit. It's stupid and disgusting. And it ought to be reversed pronto.

Image credit: Monica Showalter