Decision follows San Francisco’s actions in safeguarding public health against the harms of e-cigarettes
SAN FRANCISCO (June 22, 2022) — City Attorney David Chiu, Board of Supervisors President Shamann Walton, and San Francisco Public Utilities Commission General Manager Dennis Herrera released the following statements today after media reports that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) plans to ban Juul e-cigarettes in the United States. The anticipated marketing denial order would prohibit Juul e-cigarettes from being sold across the country and follows steps San Francisco took years ago to protect the public from harmful e-cigarettes.
“Juul has consistently attempted to mislead and distract regulators and the public with their claims of harm reduction,” said City Attorney Chiu. “No matter how they spin it, their products are just plain harmful. I am glad the FDA followed the science and had the good sense to do what San Francisco did years ago. Credit must go to Supervisor Walton and former City Attorney Herrera who took on this fight years ago.”
“When we first banned e-cigarettes here in San Francisco due to predatory practices targeting children and addicting them to tobacco, people thought we were crazy,” said Board President Walton. “But we kept fighting and led the way for other cities to adopt similar legislation, and now this is a major victory for public health and children. Thankfully, regulators can see the real purpose of these devices, which is profit.”
“I’m pleased to see the FDA is finally doing the right thing when it comes to Juul,” said SFPUC General Manager and former City Attorney Herrera. “This is a welcome step, and it’s overdue. Juul’s products should not have been on store shelves until the FDA had reviewed the threat they pose to public health. More than three years ago, Supervisor Shamann Walton and I demanded that the FDA act, and we took steps to protect San Francisco’s youth in the meantime. Juul is part of Big Tobacco, and it’s trying to addict another generation of customers. I suspect Juul has feared all along that FDA review was a test it couldn’t pass.”
After decades of decline, tobacco use among youth increased for the first time in 2018, largely attributable to a nationwide surge in e-cigarette use and marketing campaigns by Juul and other e-cigarette manufacturers appealing to children and young adults. Studies indicate that e-cigarette use is linked to a myriad of adverse health consequences.
In 2019, Supervisor Walton and former City Attorney Herrera introduced a package of legislation to protect young people from the harms of e-cigarette use, and San Francisco became one of the first jurisdictions in the nation to prohibit the sale of any e-cigarette that had not undergone FDA review and been found to meet the agency’s public health standard. This built off of the City’s existing policies to restrict the sale of flavored tobacco products. Juul attempted to repeal San Francisco’s ordinance at the ballot box, but that measure was ultimately rejected by San Francisco voters in 2019.
In order to continue selling their products, the FDA required all e-cigarette manufacturers in 2020 to submit their products for review, and the federal government raised the minimum age to purchase tobacco to 21. The FDA subsequently barred the sale of flavored e-cigarette products in 2021. Since these and other local policies like San Francisco’s have gone into effect, the rate of underage vaping has fallen.
Juul was headquartered in San Francisco until it moved its operations to Washington, D.C., in 2020. The tobacco giant Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris International, owns a 35 percent stake in Juul. As Juul is poised to be boxed out of U.S. markets, concern now turns toward whether the company has plans to flood international markets with their harmful products.
Reports indicate that the FDA could announce a marketing denial order as early as this week. More information about San Francisco’s work to protect young people from the dangers of e-cigarettes can be found here.