San Francisco

San Francisco Advances Ban on Flavored Tobacco Products

The city of San Francisco is on the verge of banning the sale of flavored tobacco products because of the danger they present to children.

Supervisors on Tuesday advanced a proposed ordinance that would eliminate the sale of vapor products, menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars.

Supervisor Malia Cohen authored the ordinance and said Tuesday she knows it’s going to hurt corner stores, smoke shops and vaping retailers, so she’s willing to put off implementation until April 2018 to "help those businesses transition."

Shop owners in the city say the ban, regardless of when it happens, will put them out of business.

Inside Gone With the Smoke, a vape shop on Geary Street in the city's Nob Hill neighborhood, owner Christoher Chin said the argument that he’s catering to children with flavored nicotine is ridiculous.

"As you can see on my sign, it says no one under 21 allowed in here," Chin said.

But outside the supervisors chambers on Tuesday, a co-sponsor of the proposed flavored tobacco ban says that is exactly what's happening.

"They’re indistinguishable from candy," District 8 Supervisor Jeff Sheehy said, adding that flavored e-cigarettes and menthol cigarettes are the tobacco industry's tools for hooking new nicotine addicts. "They’ve actually priced menthol cigarettes cheaper to get people hooked on them."

Cohen agreed.

"They taste good, and they mask the harsh flavor of tobacco," she said.

The board vote Tuesday was unanimous in the ordinance's first reading. A second reading takes place next week, when it is expected to pass.

Chin anticipated the ban would be approved, as a majority of the supervisors had co-sponsored the ordinance.

"That puts myself out of business," he said. "It puts many other people out of business."

Chin is considering a new business venture: selling marijuana from his Union Square-area store.

"There’s a little hypocrisy there; you’re still inhaling something that’s burning, but you don’t want to inhale the cigarettes," Chin said. "I don’t get that one."

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