The Board of Supervisors will be considering a ban on e-cigarettes in the weeks to come, as Sup. Shamann Walton’s proposed vape ban would outlaw nicotine vape pen and cartridge sales in San Francisco until the Food and Drug Administration completes a safety review on whether these are as safe as their manufacturers claim. But one of the world’s biggest e-cig companies, San Francisco-based Juul, wants to puff past that legislation by taking their case directly to local voters. The San Francisco Examiner reports that Juul has filed a ballot measure that would, essentially, ban the vape ban.
The measure was submitted Tuesday, according to Department of Elections records, and is counterintuitively entitled “An Act to Prevent Youth Use of Vapor Products.” (Though there’s probably no way it makes it onto the official San Francisco ballot with that same name.) Right now the measure is just a proposal, and has not collected even one of the 9,500 petition signatures required to make the ballot. Further, we don’t even know if it would be on the 2019 or 2020 ballot. It can make the 2019 ballot if they get the signatures before July 8, or they have until November of this year to qualify for the Nov. 2020 ballot.
The Examiner notes that the person who submitted the measure is Jennifer Hochstatter, whose LinkedIn profile lists her as Juul Labs’ vice president of supply and demand planning. The paper had previously reported that Juul hired experience campaign consultants, including Jane Kim’s former campaign manager David Ho, Sup. Matt Haney’s previous campaign manager Nate Allbee, and Sup. Catherine Stefani’s one-time campaign consultant Mark Mosher.
The text of the measure cleverly says that “No person shall knowingly purchase a vapor product for another person who is under the age of 21, or provide a vapor product to another person who is under the age of 21,” and “No establishment shall knowingly sell or distribute a vapor product to a person who is under the age of 21.”
See what they did there? The legal language expressly legalizes vape product sales to people over 21, an end-around on Sup. Walton’s proposed ban.
Of course, both sides are playing political games here. Juul’s measure has strict-sounding language, but establishes unfettered vape sales to anyone 21. Meanwhile Sup. Walton’s ban claims to be temporary until the FDA completes some theoretical safety study — a study the FDA never said it was going to do, and will probably never happen. As the San Francisco vape wars heat up, expect both sides to blow a lot of misleading smoke.