First US ban on e-cigarettes proposed by San Francisco

Harriet Alexander
E-cigarettes could be banned in San Francisco

Officials in San Francisco have proposed the first US ban on electronic cigarettes, amid concerns that the products entice children.

Dennis Herrera, the city attorney, announced on Tuesday that the Californian city was considering a ban until the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) evaluate the effects of e-cigarettes on public health.

Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is addictive and can harm still-developing adolescent brains. In the US, young people are more likely than adults to use e-cigarettes, and manufacturers promote sweet flavours and scents.

"Millions of children are already addicted to e-cigarettes and millions more will follow if we don't act," he said.

Last week the FDA released proposed guidelines, giving companies until 2021 to submit applications for the evaluation. But Mr Herrera said the evaluation should have been carried out before the products went on sale.

Shamann Walton, San Francisco supervisor – a role similar to that of a councillor - introduced legislation banning the sale of e-cigarettes in the city unless they get an FDA review.

"We have people addicted to nicotine who would have never smoked a cigarette had it not been for the attractive products that target our young people," said Mr Walton, a former president of the San Francisco Board of Education.

San Francisco was the first city in the US to approve an outright ban on the sale of flavoured tobacco and flavoured vaping liquids, in 2018.

The city prohibits smoking in parks and public squares and doesn't allow smokeless tobacco at its playing fields.

In 2018, more than 3.6 million US middle- and high-school students used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days, including nearly five per cent of middle school students and nearly 21 per cent of high school students, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.

Chicago and New York also signed the letter to the FDA, alongside San Francisco.

Chicago officials have been taking an increasingly hard line on e-cigarette vendors, filing a series of lawsuits against online stores and retail shops in the city, alleging they market and sell them to minors.

In 2017 Chicago raised the legal age for buying all tobacco products, including vape pens and e-cigarettes, from 18 to 21.

New York last year looked poised to become the first state to ban flavoured tobacco. The proposal was shelved, but Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, has long been critical of the vaping industry.

In 2017, he signed legislation that barred using e-cigarettes and vapes from workplaces, bars and restaurants as part of the state's Clean Indoor Air Act and has repeatedly expressed concerns over e-cigarette use among teenagers.

A year earlier, New York banned the sale of e-cigarettes and vapes to those younger than 18.