San Francisco set to become first major US city to ban e-cigarettes

An e-cigarette Credit: PA

San Francisco is set to become the first US city to ban e-cigarettes after officials voted in favour of the motion in a bid to cut down on youth vaping.

The measure proposes to prohibit the sale, manufacture, and distribution of tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes, on city property.

A change in the law requires two readings and a final vote to pass it is expected next week.

If the law is passed, San Francisco will be the first major US city to impose a ban on the sale of e-cigarettes.

The amendment specifically singles out the use of electronic cigarettes, blaming the devices for a "growing health epidemic of youth vaping".

A study in February revealed that about 4.9 million middle and high school students in the US were vaping in 2018, up from 3.6 million the year before.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert R Redfield said at the time that the country must help keep children safe from a preventable health risk.

“The skyrocketing growth of young people’s e-cigarette use over the past year threatens to erase progress made in reducing youth tobacco use," Mr Redfield said.

"It’s putting a new generation at risk for nicotine addiction."

Pro-vaping lobbyists argue that adult smokers in the city should have access to less harmful alternatives to cigarettes. Credit: PA

San Francisco's proposed ordinance (a city-level law) expands on a 2014 measure which banned the sale of such devices where the sales of traditional tobacco products are already prohibited.

City supervisors did express concern about the impact on small businesses and said they planned to create a working group to aid them if the measure passes.

E-cigarette company Juul, which is based in San Francisco, argues vaping is a healthier alternative to smoking tobacco.

The firm has taken steps to deter younger people from using its products including shutting down its social media presence.

"The prohibition of vapour products for all adults in San Francisco will not effectively address underage use and will leave cigarettes on shelves as the only choice for adult smokers, even though they kill 40,000 Californians every year," Juul spokesman Ted Kwong said.

San Francisco's measure also sets the stage for a November ballot fight over e-cigarettes in the mid-term elections.

Juul has already contributed half a million dollars to the Coalition for Reasonable Vaping Regulation, which is set to gather signatures to put an initiative on the issue before voters.

The American Vaping Association also opposes San Francisco's proposal, saying adult smokers deserve access to less hazardous alternatives.

There are more than 40 countries across the world that have some type of ban on vaping,either use, sale, importation or a combination, according to vaping site Vaping 360.

Prohibition is most common in Asia, the Middle East and south America, as well as Australia.