Menthol Tobacco On Chopping Block In Sweeping Vape And Smoking Ban

Steve Birr | Vice Reporter

Menthol cigarettes and all flavored vaping products are set to be banned in San Francisco, igniting criticism from advocates who say that e-cigarettes reduce public harm from smoking.

The legislation is expected to pass and be approved by the mayor of San Francisco this week, and will likely be implemented in April 2018. The law will only allow for the sale of tobacco flavored products for vaping and will ban the sale of menthol cigarettes entirely. Officials unanimously passed the anti-vaping measure June 20, but the bill requires another vote before it can be signed into law, reports Medpage Today.

The sale of flavored cigarettes is banned at the federal level, however, the regulations exclude menthol products. The city ban on vaping flavors, which are not federally regulated, will be the first in the country.

“One needn’t be a tool of Big Tobacco to realize that these bans will make it harder for people to access safer products,” Steven Greenhut, Western Region director for the R Street Institute, said in a recent op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle. “The flavored tobacco bans are dangerously counterproductive. Large percentages of smokers are giving up their deadly cigarette habit by embracing that far-less-dangerous one — the use of e-cigarettes. It would be a shame to sacrifice public health in service to moral absolutism.”

City supervisors are critical of flavored vaping products, arguing that options like cotton candy, banana cream and even mint entice children and serve as a gateway to smoking cigarettes. Vaping advocates are blasting the policy shift in California, arguing that flavors help smokers trying to quit. Public health experts also note vaping devices offer smokers a viable way to reduce health risks to those around them.

Fears over vaping having a youth “gateway effect” to cigarettes appear to be largely unfounded. A survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released June 15 reveals after a rapid increase in youth vaping between 2011 and 2015, teens are now giving up the habit. The number of middle school and high school students who use a vaping device dropped from 3 million to 2.2 million in 2016.

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Steve Birr

Vice Reporter

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