In 2018, residents of San Francisco were asked “Shall the City ordinance prohibiting the sale of flavored tobacco products in San Francisco take effect?” They voted on this as part of the election of officials. The build-up to the vote was dominated by billionaire Michael Bloomberg flooding the city with millions to taint the process as a fight against ‘Big Tobacco’, rather than an argument about tobacco harm reduction and saving lives. Once the votes were in, the ‘Yes’ vote won by 164,844 to 76,193. [link]
So began the slog towards puritanism and away from evidence. By 2019, flavoured eliquids has been banned and legislators were pushing for more – with San Francisco Supervisor Shamann Walton declaring: “We don’t want them [vape products and companies] in our city.”
Director of Public Health Dr Grant Colfax supported the outright ban proposal, saying: “The industry is addicting a whole new generation of youth to nicotine.” The lunatics were holding the keys to the asylum.
An op-ed in Centre Square notes: “Prohibition style bans do nothing to solve the problem cities like San Francisco seek to answer. It’s as if they’ve forgotten what happened in Prohibition – in banning alcohol across the states, Prohibition made the process of buying alcohol less safe for everyone. While the culture things that popped up were fascinating like speakeasies, you also saw gang wars break out and perverse incentives show up when both Baptists and Bootleggers were on the same side for keeping alcohol banned, even though the two groups fundamentally thought about the substance differently.”
Step forward Yang, Lindblom, Salloum, and Ward, researchers from the University of Memphis, Georgetown University Law Centre, and the University of Florida. Addictive Behaviors Reports journal has just published their study where the team looked at the impact of a comprehensive tobacco product flavour ban.
Before commencing work, the team speculated: “Banning flavours in e-cigarettes alone would prompt e-cigarette use cessation and reduce e-cigarette initiation but may also push some e-cigarette users to turn to cigarette smoking and could prompt some youth to initiate into smoking instead of e-cigarette use.”
“Another key concern is whether local or state flavour bans will simply prompt users to obtain their flavoured tobacco products in nearby jurisdictions that still sell them, from illegal local sellers, or through Internet sales, thereby reducing any beneficial public health impacts.”
“Our results indicate that among young adults, comprehensive local flavour bans for tobacco products are likely to reduce the use of tobacco products overall and flavoured tobacco products overall. Specifically, the ban reduced cigarette use and cigar smoking by reducing the use of flavoured tobacco products but can also increase, or not reduce, cigarette smoking as some former users of the banned flavoured tobacco products switch to smoking.”
Seeing as the ban was all about combatting a decline in tobacco tax revenue, champagne corks must be popping in the council offices.