Flavored Tobacco Ban Triumphs at the Polls

Big Tobacco far outspent proponents but San Francisco voters overwhelmingly voted for Prop. E, keeping the ban in place.

San Francisco voters on Tuesday night rejected the campaign influence of Big Tobacco by overwhelmingly voting to ban flavored tobacco.

With 68 percent approval, Proposition E now bans flavored tobacco products — menthol cigarettes and vape liquids included —  in San Francisco. Opponents spent more than $11.5 million to defeat it, while supporters only had $2.3 million to convince others.

It wasn’t all Big Tobacco littering Instagram with ads against Prop E. Small businesses joined the opposition, saying they would stand to lose.

“Almost 50 percent of our business [is flavored tobacco],” Aldalali Saleh Abdullah, manager of the Excelsior’s Super Smoke shop said last week. “Every smoke shop is worried about it.”

Supervisor Malia Cohen authored the ban, which the Board of Supervisors approved in June before the ballot challenge, arguing that flavored tobacco lures children who might otherwise develop a distaste for regular tobacco. The American Heart Association, African Cancer Society, African-American Tobacco Control Leadership Council, NICOS Chinese Health Coalition and others joined the list of supporters.

“The flavored tobacco bans are a very good idea,” Stanford Medical School Health Policy Associate Dr. Keith Humphreys told SF Weekly. “The flavors appeal particularly to kids.”

Basically, those kids — and adults — could easily cross the Bay Bridge or take BART to Daly City to find the same products, but they have to really want it.

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