In November, San Franciscans will have their chance to vote on Proposition C to “authorize and regulate the sale of electronic cigarettes and other vapor products.” Prop C was, until recently, heavily backed by e-cigarette maker Juul. Despite its supporters’ statements that Prop C would properly regulate e-cigarettes, there are several reasons SFLCV endorses a no vote on Prop C.
Prop C would upend existing San Francisco ordinances temporarily banning e-cigarette sales in San Francisco until the FDA issues an order authorizing it. Buried in the text of the initiative are several provisions that would protect Big Tobacco giants such as Juul, including provisions that would overrule public health legislation, raise consumer privacy concerns, weaken existing laws on its products, and limit enforcement action that can be taken against those who sell to children. Further, attorneys and advocates who have reviewed the legal language of Prop C have found that the measure "could strip the SF Board of Supervisors of its authority to pass e-cigarette-related legislation,” as well as “gut the city’s current ban on flavored tobacco products that have made [e-cigarette use] popular among teens,” while “other provisions are already essentially the law," making them unnecessary.
From an environmental perspective, e-cigarettes contain both biohazard and environmental risks. E-cigarette products can leak lead at hazardous waste levels, and e-cigarettes are littered in public places at alarming levels. There are also concerns over how the public can legally recycle e-cigarettes.
Environmental and public health issues are inextricably linked, and the evidence shows that e-cigarettes are bad for public health. Every major health organization in San Francisco opposes Prop C, and the World Health Organization has come out strongly against e-cigarette use. UCSF has called out Juul's predatory practices toward children and misleading statements that e-cigarettes are less harmful than traditional cigarettes, as there is no evidence to support such statements. The American Lung Association warns that Juul is "a wolf in sheep's clothing."
A 2018 Dartmouth study found that “for every additional adult who quits smoking using e-cigarettes, there are 80 additional youth who initiate daily tobacco use through e-cigarettes.” In other words, e-cigarettes come at the expense not the aid of our children.
It’s why the former FDA Chief and the CDC have blamed Juul for the epidemic of teen e-cigarette use. Last year, the FDA announced that almost 21% of high school children had vaped in the previous month alone, a 78% increase from the year before. This number jumped to over 27% this year. Even more troubling is that use among 8th grade children more than doubled last year to 10%. And earlier this year, the CDC found that “5.6 million of today’s Americans younger than 18 will die early from a smoking-related illness,” which is “about 1 of every 13 Americans aged 17 years or younger who are alive today.”
The numbers present an alarming story. And it’s something we can all agree on: Big Tobacco should not be telling us how to write our public health laws. SFLCV urges you to Vote No on Prop C.