San Francisco, California, is about to be the first US city to ban the use of e-cigarettes in its borders.
The City Council's decision passed unanimously Tuesday, and is now waiting for the expected approval of Mayor London Breed.
If approved, the ordinance would ban the sale, manufacture, and distribution - either in brick-and-mortar stores or products bought online and shipped to a San Francisco address - of smoking products which have not yet received the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) approval. It would also prevent companies engaging in these activities from leasing city property.
The ordinance would go into effect 30 days after receiving Breed's approval, and would be fully implemented six months after that.
Though e-cigarettes have been sold in the US for several years, they have not yet received FDA approval and no industry standards have been issued.
According to CNN, the measure applies not only to vaping products but also to flavored tobacco products. It does not, however, ban the use of vaping products by individuals aged 21 and above.
In a statement following the vote, City Attorney Dennis Herrera said, "This is a decisive step to help prevent another generation of San Francisco children from becoming addicted to nicotine."
"E-cigarettes are a product that, by law, are not allowed on the market without FDA review. For some reason, the FDA has so far refused to follow the law," he said last week. "Now, youth vaping is an epidemic. If the federal government is not going to act to protect our kids, San Francisco will."
"I support the legislation authored by City Attorney Dennis Herrera and Supervisor Shamann Walton to suspend the sale of e-cigarettes in San Francisco until the Food and Drug Administration concludes a review of the impacts of vaping on public health," CNN quoted Breed as saying.
"There is so much we don't know about the health impacts of these products, but we do know that e-cigarette companies are targeting our kids in their advertising and getting them hooked on addictive nicotine products. We need to take action to protect the health of San Francisco's youth and prevent the next generation of San Franciscans from becoming addicted to these products."
NBC News quoted San Francisco Board of Supervisors Chair Norman Yee, who said: "Big tobacco has shown us their eagerness to prey on youth in order to grow their next generation of nicotine users. The full health impacts of these so-called 'safer alternatives' to traditional cigarettes is unknown – that’s a fact."
The site noted that according to a February study from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 4.9 million teenagers vaped in 2018, representing a rise of 1.3 million from the previous year's 3.6 million.
NBC also quoted CDC Director Robert R. Redfield, who emphasized that "the skyrocketing growth of young people’s e-cigarette use over the past year threatens to erase progress made in reducing youth tobacco use."
"It’s putting a new generation at risk for nicotine addiction."
Juul spokesman Ted Kwong responded "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."
The company also claims it has taken steps to prevent underage users.
FDA spokesman Michael Felberbaum responded: "The FDA has and will continue to tackle the troubling epidemic of e-cigarette use among kids. This includes preventing youth access to, and appeal of, flavored tobacco products like e-cigarettes and cigars, taking action against manufacturers and retailers who illegally market or sell these products to minors, and educating youth about the dangers of e-cigarettes and other tobacco products."
The agency also issued final guidance for e-cigarette manufacturers, ordering them to submit premarket tobacco product applications.