“Altria, the maker of Marlboro cigarettes, recently invested almost $13 billion in e-cigarette company Juul. Some experts say in its early days Juul mirrored the tobacco industry’s promotional playbook in an effort to hook young people.”
San Francisco officials proposed legislation Tuesday that would ban the sale of e-cigarettes in the city and prohibit e-cigarette companies like Juul from occupying city-owned property in the future.
Two bills authored by City Attorney Dennis Herrera and Supervisor Shamann Walton — whose district includes Juul’s corporate headquarters in the Dogpatch neighborhood — are part of several actions the city wants to pursue to crack down on youth vaping in general, and Juul in particular.
Walton said the proposed legislation should also serve as a warning and statement to Juul that “we don’t want them in our city.”
“I don’t eventually want to see them leave this city,” he said. “I would have liked for them to have been gone yesterday.”
One bill that Herrera and Walton introduced at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting would ban the sale and shipment of e-cigarettes to San Francisco stores and customer addresses until the U.S. Food and Drug Administration begins a vetting process known as a pre-market review, in which manufacturers must prove their products are appropriate for public health before selling them on the market.
The city already bans youth-friendly flavors like candy and fruit in tobacco products through Proposition E, which voters passed in 2018. Physical stores are barred from selling them. The bill would ban all e-cigarettes regardless of flavor so long as they contain nicotine, and it would also ban the shipment of such items to private residences in San Francisco.
The second bill would ban companies that sell, manufacture and distribute tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, from city property. San Francisco already prohibits tobacco companies from doing business on city property, and this measure would explicitly add e-cigarettes to the existing ban. The proposed bill would not be applied retroactively, so it would not kick Juul out of its current space at Pier 70, but it would prevent e-cigarette companies from leasing city property in the future.
At a Tuesday news conference, city officials blasted the e-cigarette company for what they called “predatory practices” toward young adults, with Juul’s sleek, palm-size vaporizers and pods that evoke tastes like mango, creme and cucumber.
“These companies may hide behind the veneer of harm reduction, but let’s be clear, their product is addiction,” Herrera said. “They’re in the business of getting people addicted, or keeping them addicted.”
Director of Public Health Dr. Grant Colfax said the two bills are a positive step toward “breaking the epidemic” of e-cigarette use in San Francisco.
“The industry is addicting a whole new generation of youth to nicotine,” he said. The proposed legislation is “a major step in preventing that gateway from e-cigarette addition to tobacco use and tobacco addiction. This will save hundreds, if not thousands of lives.”
The city of Aspen is drafting an ordinance that would ban all flavored tobacco sales within town limits, including menthol cigarettes and many types of chew and vaping products.
City council members expressed full support of the measure, which would not need to go to voters to be enacted, at a work session on Tuesday.
The initiative is being led by Risa Turetsky with Pitkin County Public Health and Dr. Kim Levin, medical officer for the Pitkin County Board of Health. Levin helped pass Aspen’s tobacco retail licence ordinance in 2017, which restricted sales to those over 21 years old and imposed new local taxes.
Levin said flavored tobacco products are a clear manipulation to hook young customers.
“Once a child is addicted to nicotine they are a lifetime customer,” she said.
The measure would be an update to Aspen’s existing retail license regulations, and would affect a handful of businesses in town.
Now that the council has given the go ahead to start working on the ordinance, the city will be reaching out to the relevant vendors in town.
“We will be inviting them to be present at the council meetings where the new ordinance will be introduced, as well as for the public hearing on the topic which will come later this spring,” said CJ Oliver, Aspen’s environmental health and sustainability director.
Neither Aspen gas station convenience store sells any vaping products. A clerk at the Aspen Conoco station said that “wintergreen” is their most popular Skoal smokeless tobacco flavor and that they also sell a variety of flavored cigarillos. Both products would likely be banned from the shelves under the proposed ordinance.
The law would be based off one passed in San Francisco that includes all types of flavored tobacco products including cigarettes, e-cigarettes, chewing tobacco and cigars. All flavors, including menthol and spice flavors such as clove, would be banned.
The fiscal impacts are hard to calculate. While the city receives $3.10 per pack of cigarettes sold and a 40 percent sales tax on other products, the percentage of those sales that involve flavored items are not reported, according to city finance director Pete Strecker. Presumably the loss of sales would mean a loss of sales tax, but that tax brought in $100,000 more than was predicted in its first year.
In San Francisco, the city was sued after enacting the flavor ban, but the law was upheld. In a work session last week, City Attorney Jim True told council that the measure would be a risk for lawsuit.
“I cannot say that if you took this action you’d be free from litigation,” True said.
Assistant City Attorney Andrea Bryan explained that the city is able to put restrictions on free market sales when it comes to public good, as its has done with plastic bags and a proposed ban on fur in the past.
“Local governments are afforded broad discretion in implementing reasonable regulations to protect the public health, safety, and welfare,” Bryan wrote in an email.
Data from the Food and Drug Administration shows a 78 percent increase in adolescent use of e-cigarettes nationally within the last year. Colorado is number one in the country for teen use of vaping products, and the Roaring Fork Valley numbers are nearly three times higher than the national average, according to Pitkin County public health.
“When you get to a product that is actually bad for your health, it’s a different kind of product,” Levin said, adding that she’s not sure that the flavor ban is legal, but she thinks it’s the right move to take the risk. “We as adults and we as regulators and government have a responsibility to protect kids — I firmly believe in regulation in public health law.”
Aspen would be the first community in the state to pass this type of restriction. Colorado Rep. Diana DeGette introduced a similar measure on the federal level this month. The SAFE Kids Act is targeted solely at e-cigarettes and would ban the manufacturing of all flavored nicotine pods.
“To me, there is no legitimate reason to sell any product with names such as cotton candy or tutti fruitti, unless you are trying to market it to children,” DeGette said in a press release. “If we’re going to address the root cause of this problem, we have to start by banning the sale of these enticing kid-friendly nicotine flavors.”
Aspen was the first city in the state to raise the purchase age for all tobacco products from 18 to 21. Many other towns have followed suit including Basalt and Carbondale and a measure in the Colorado state house would allow counties to create tobacco retail license without losing tax dollars from the state.
The hope is that Aspen would lead the way again.
“This is a bigger conversation and the only way to make change right now is local change,” Levin said. “We can do it.”
Nearly 400 youth and adult advocates from across Minnesota rallied on February 27 at the State Capitol to urge lawmakers to address tobacco addiction and “Keep Lungs Loud.” Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation, a coalition of more than 60 organizations that share a common goal of saving Minnesota youth from a lifetime of addiction to tobacco, brought together residents from all across Minnesota during their annual Day at the Capitol. The activists included young students, parents, educators, physicians and other citizens concerned about commercial tobacco use.
Since last year’s Day at the Capitol, 18 Minnesota communities have passed local Tobacco 21 policies. Minnesota now has 23 cities and counties with Tobacco 21 ordinances, covering more than 22 percent of Minnesota’s population. Many locals who advocated for these lifesaving policies were present and honored at this year’s event.
“Today’s Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation Day at the Capitol is a reminder that tobacco addiction affects people all across Minnesota, in every stage of life and every single community,” said Molly Moilanen, Vice President at ClearWay MinnesotaSM and Co-Chair of Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation. “Today also reminds us of the lifesaving progress we can make together through bold state and local policies. Let’s work together to tackle tobacco addiction from all angles, by passing Tobacco 21, funding quit-smoking help and strengthening our clean indoor air law.”
Following the rally, advocates met with legislators and encouraged them to prioritize tobacco prevention this session. The coalition supports three bipartisan bills that will help Minnesota save lives and money. The proposals would strengthen the state’s clean indoor air law, provide quit-smoking help for all residents, and raise the tobacco age to 21. Several lead authors of these bills joined grassroots supporters at the rally.
Grassroots supporters from the Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation coalition urged lawmakers to quickly pass these three bills. Yesterday, the Tobacco 21 bill (SF463/HF331) advanced in both houses, passing out of the House Commerce Committee and Senate Health and Human Services Policy and Finance Committee. The bill to keep indoor air clean (SF462/HF349) also advanced yesterday through the House Commerce Committee, but has not been heard yet in the Senate.
House Committee Hears Two Tobacco Funding Bills
Separately, today the House Health and Human Service Finance Committee heard two bills to fund tobacco prevention and cessation. Committee members held over both bills for potential inclusion in their HHS budget.
The first bill, HF350/SF461, provides funding for Tobacco Cessation Services. QUITPLAN® Services, the state’s free quit-smoking program, is ending in 2020. Lawmakers must fund quit-smoking resources this year so there is no gap in help for Minnesotans who are trying to quit tobacco. If Minnesota does not fund a statewide service, it will become the only state in the nation not providing one.
The second proposal, HF1058/SF1029, states that if Minnesota is successful in recouping tobacco settlement fees from delinquent cigarette brands, a portion must be dedicated to health. Specifically, approximately $12 million a year of those settlement fees would be used for tobacco prevention and control. Since 2015, several cigarette brands have not been paying their required share of settlement fees to the state of Minnesota. Tobacco companies agreed to pay these fees in perpetuity as part of 1998 Minnesota Tobacco Settlement.
“Every year, Big Tobacco causes new addictions, death and disease throughout Minnesota,” Moilanen said. “The tobacco settlement was reached in part to compensate the state for the tremendous harms of tobacco use. These cigarette companies have shirked this responsibility by refusing to pay their fair share of the settlement fees. If that wrong is righted, the best way for Minnesota to use the money is to address tobacco’s harm and help prevent the next generation of tobacco addiction.”
Tobacco use remains Minnesota’s leading cause of preventable death and disease, costing an estimated $7 billion annually and taking the lives of more than 6,300 Minnesotans every year. Smoking rates in Minnesota had been declining for decades, but the adult cigarette smoking rate has stalled out at 14 percent, and for the first time in a generation youth tobacco use has increased. In particular, the surging use of e-cigarettes is threatening the health of Minnesota teens, driving an increase in youth tobacco use that the U.S. Surgeon General has called an epidemic.
SALT LAKE CITY — A bill to incrementally raise the age for tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes, to 21 passed through the Utah Legislature Wednesday with a 15-12 vote in the Senate and a 55-16 concurrence vote in the House.
HB324, sponsored by Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, changes the age from 19 to 20 on July 1, 2020, and to 21 one year later. The bill raises the age for “obtaining, possessing, using, providing, or furnishing of tobacco products, paraphernalia, and under certain circumstances, electronic cigarettes.”
Arguments around this bill has centered on the debate of preemption, with cancer advocates speaking against an early version of the bill. The bill that passed made only one amendment to preemption language in current code, adding the minimum age of sale to what cannot be modified by cities and counties.
Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, the Senate sponsor of the bill, said this compromise would allow cities that have already raised the age for sale of tobacco, including Lehi and Cedar Hills, to keep the age at 21 instead of following the incremental age increase in the state.
She said addiction should not be shamed or criminalized, especially for youth. If youth get in trouble while they are building who they are as a person, they could define themselves as thugs or criminals.
“This is not about smokers, this is about protecting youth from having access to these addictive materials that the tobacco industry is pushing,” Tischler said.
According to Tischler, 800 youth in Utah each year become daily smokers, and vaping is especially a problem for youth because they have more access to it and it’s easier to hide from parents.
Jordan Osborne was part of an anti-tobacco youth group in Utah County and helped change laws to make parks tobacco free. But when he was 18, a friend a few years older bought him a vape pen and he became a smoker. He still vapes and occasionally smokes cigarettes. He said he doesn’t feel like he is addicted, but he gets aggravated when he hasn’t smoked.
“If they had the smoking age at 21 back then it would have made it even harder for me to even get (tobacco),” Osborne said.
He said if he had never started using tobacco he would be a lot healthier and wouldn’t have to have something to help him relax.
Cedar Hills and Lehi both passed ordinances in the last few weeks raising the age to buy tobacco to 21. But opponents to HB324 say language in the bill could stop other cities from making changes to local tobacco laws.