Recently the world was informed that San Francisco has banned the sale, distribution and delivery of all vaping products within the county. This has come as shocking news, particularly as the Golden Gate city is home to the biggest e-cigarette manufacturer in the US, Juul Labs.
In 2018, the city banned all flavoured tobacco and eliquid use yet the news of an outright blanket ban has caught many by surprise, opening up the issue as to why vaping is so heavily scrutinised in the US and what this means for the rest of the world.
We take a look at the wider context as to why this legislation came to fruition and how the media’s role and lack of support by health organisations has a lot to account for.
Law officials on Tuesday (25th June 2019) voted in favour of banning the sale and delivery of all vaping equipment (including e-liquids), prohibiting vape shops and online vendors from distributing within the county of San Francisco. Mayor, London Breed, has ten days to pass the law and has expressed firm indication she will do so, which will then come into effect in seven months. This means basically that anyone in San Francisco from then who is found to have bought or sold vape equipment within the city, is liable for prosecution.
This news is even more unexpected due to one of the US’ most popular e-cigarette producers, Juul Labs who are worth over $38bn, residing in the Californian city. This will potentially see a dent in sales and infrastructure, with Juul responding that the ban ‘will create a thriving black market’.
This highlights that vaping as a whole, is seen in an incredibly negative light within the US, backed up by the fact that virtually no health initiatives advocate for the use of vaping as an alternative cessation method to smoking. Compare this to the UK, where huge public health bodies such as PHE, NHS, Cancer Research and The British Lung Foundation have heavily campaigned for vaping as a successful tool to help quit smoking and the vastly contrasting attitudes of both nations are plain to see.
Linda Bauld, Professor of Public Health at Edinburgh University, states,’The great irony is that San Francisco are removing these products from the market that are significantly less harmful than smoking. Countries like Canada, New Zealand and the UK have shifted their position to be far more positive, driven by the signs.’
As stated, the perceptions of vaping are very different in the UK and the US, however these opposing views are formulated through the media’s role in tarnishing vaping. The most common issue is that vaping is allegedly taken up by a large proportion of young people, attracted by the flavours and large clouds, which then act as a gateway for young people to get into smoking in the future.
The National Institute of Drug Abuse report points to a dramatic increase in youth uptake of vaping in the US, stating:
“America’s teens report a dramatic increase in their use of vaping devices in just a single year, with 37.3 percent of 12th graders reporting “any vaping” in the past 12 months, compared to just 27.8 percent in 2017.”
But the obvious point of contention is that these stats are looking at ‘any vaping’ during a 12 month period - this does not represent regular vaping and could simply be teenagers doing what teenagers do best (apart from moaning about their parents); they try stuff they aren’t supposed to. This does not necessarily mean they are ‘vapers’ much in the same way if they tried a cigarette once we wouldn’t class them as ‘smokers’.
On the other hand, the recent report published by ASH (Action On Smoking and Health) highlights just the opposite in the UK. Use amongst children is almost negligible, and has actually decreased since last year, confined almost entirely to those that had already smoked.
What’s more, if we take it as fact that there are significant numbers of children vaping in the US, this is not a fault with the product - a product that is helping millions of adults turn their backs on a habit that we know kills half the people that do it, whilst causing serious health issues for many of the others. It is in fact a problem with irresponsible retail and to some degree marketing. It’s the same problem for any age restricted item; tobacco, alcohol, pornography, and in the US guns. It is illegal to sell these products, and vaping products, to a minor, therefore the real problem here is unscrupulous shop owners trying to make an extra buck. It is those people that need to be punished, not the users of a product that is saving their lives.
Here in the UK, there have been some reports of underage children getting their hands on vaping products, but luckily the powers that be are not blaming the products themselves and organisations such as the UKVIA (UK Vaping Industry Association) are working hard with relevant authorities to do everything they can to stamp out these untrustworthy retailers in an entirely logical approach. Bottom line is that if the kids aren’t sold the products, they can’t use the products.
Furthermore, presumably the main motive of this ban by the San Francisco government was to stop young people from getting hooked to nicotine and counter the so called ‘epidemic’, but where will all those young people (the ones the studies have told us are turning to vaping) get their nicotine hit from when vaping is banned? Cigarettes will still be legal of course.
Let's examine that logic a little more closely...
Conclusion - Therefore we should ban vaping but keep smoking legal.
Such questionable logic might lead one to think the motivation behind this ban may not just be concern for the public's health, but if not that, what other motivation could there possibly be?
Many onlookers and pro-vaping activists put vaping’s unfavourable perception possibly down to the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement. This was an arrangement that was set in place back in 1998, stating that over 25 years the 4 major US tobacco companies (Philip Morris Inc., R. J. Reynolds, Brown & Williamson and Lorillard) would pay the US government a fee each year based on the volume of their tobacco sales. This fee (which was set as a minimum of $206bn over a 25 year period) in turn gives them immunity against any lawsuits or tobacco-related healthcare costs.
However, with California being pretty much the vaping capital of the world, cigarette sales have decreased markedly in recent years, and these payments have in turn markedly reduced. So considering that tobacco sales have not been banned, are they really looking out for a generation of potential nicotine addicts, or are they infact just chasing the dollar…. We’ll leave you to decide on that one!
With this in mind, it all makes sense as to why, through swaying of public opinion, vaping is viewed in a defamatory context and why somewhere like San Francisco, one of the most liberally thinking cities in the US, have caved in and banned vaping products.
Following the much-expected confirmation of the ban, it remains to be seen whether this will transfuse to other US cities or states yet what’s clear is that this ban has been the culmination of pressure from many establishments who for some reason or another fail to believe that vaping can be a force for good to deter people away from smoking.
In the UK, the pressure is in fact going the other way, with the TPD regulations set out by the EU expected to be relaxed post-Brexit which could allow for further growth of the vaping industry.
As for Juul, it is believed they may have to relocate their headquarters, however fortunately for them they have the money and backing to survive this hit, whilst small independent vape shops and businesses in San Francisco will not and ultimately will go under.
For more information, visit our website www.vapeclub.co.uk or please don’t hesitate to contact us regarding any queries surrounding vaping legislation or vaping in general.