San Francisco’s Flavor Ban Threatens Livelihood Of Vape Shop Owners And Local Retailers

Steve Birr | Vice Reporter

Owners of San Francisco retailers and convenience stores say a looming ban of flavored nicotine and tobacco products will threaten their livelihoods.

Small businesses are speaking out ahead of a key ballot vote June 5 that will decide the fate of the contentious restriction — dubbed Proposition E. If voters accept Proposition E, a full ban on menthol cigarettes and flavored vaping products will go into effect. It will help prevent teens from using vapor and tobacco products, supporters claim; but shop owners say it will upend their bottom lines without addressing the primary access point to these products for teens, which is through third parties like a parent or sibling, KTVU reported.

Shop owners strictly enforce price restrictions on their products and hang a “no one under 21” sign on their doors, proprietors said. Many of their customers come to the stores for tobacco products and end up purchasing additional goods, they noted.

“If we don’t have their pack of smokes, we won’t have the rest of the items they purchase that keep us open,” Miriam Zouzounis, owners of Ted’s Market on San Francisco’s Howard Street, told KTVU.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a ban on menthol cigarettes and flavored vaping products in the city in June 2017. Officials were forced to return to the issue the following September after a coalition of small businesses submitted a petition with 33,941 signatures to the board.

Activists fear vapor products are serving as a gateway to combustible cigarettes for young Americans. However, while a large amount of teens are experimenting with e-cigarettes, teen smoking is declining to historic lows.

Furthermore, a recent study of high schoolers in San Francisco found a six percent decline in vaping since 2016.

Alarmism over vaping misses the larger point about e-cigarettes, namely they are a harm reduction tool helping millions of smokers quit throughout the U.S., smoking alternatives advocates said.

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Steve Birr

Vice Reporter

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