San Francisco ghosts e-cigarettes

September 23, 2019

Photo by Alli Runnfeldt
Sign outside stores make it clear they sell popular e-cigarette products from afar.

Juul has been kicked out of the nest: as of June, their home ground of San Francisco has banned them along with all other e-cigarette brands that are not Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved. The Juul e-cigarette company has resided there since its creation in May 2015.

San Francisco is becoming one of the first cities in the United States to ban the sale and distribution of Juuls and other e-cigarettes, citing underage use as one of their main concerns. According to The Washington Post, this law will remain in place until the FDA conducts a full assessment of each e-cigarette product. 

While Juul’s website claims that they were founded to improve the lifestyle of adult smokers, many adults believe that Juul’s youthful flavors are illegally targeting underage users, according to the Washington Post. 

In 2018, the National Institute of Drug Abuse reported a record high of teens who regularly vape or have tried vaping. Their reports show that within 2017, approximately 37.3 percent of 12th graders had vaped and 10.9 percent of eighth-graders had taken part as well. These statistics have troubled the Board of Supervisors in San Francisco.

Natalie Gee, Chief of Staff for San Francisco District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton, assisted with the process of making the decision to ban e-cigarettes.

Photo by Alli Runnfeldt
Many underage people purchase their e-cigarettes from convenience stores or shops in San Francisco

“Before Juul came into reality as a business, we had a lot of public health victories in terms of curving youth smoking and curving youth from getting addicted to nicotine. So we were almost able to have a whole generation that didn’t start getting addicted to nicotine until Juul came along,” Gee said. 

Former Redwood student “Olivia,” whose name has been changed for anonymity, shared the confusion she and many of her peers had about Juuls. She consistently used Juul products for a little over a year until it became more difficult and expensive to obtain. 

“I started having a much harder time getting ahold of pods and it kept getting more expensive. When I realized what I was willing to spend and do to get pods, I realized I was addicted,” Olivia said. 

Redwood is constantly attempting to inform students about the dangers of e-cigarettes, and this strongly impacted Olivia.

“I was also having to listen to presentations about the harm it could do to me and saw all the effort TUPE (Tobacco Use Prevention Education) was putting in to stopping it. I was tired of being attached to my Juul,” Olivia said.

This new legislation in San Francisco is the first attempt to reverse the trend of young vapers, as more teenagers are becoming addicted to nicotine through e-cigarettes.

Infographic by Alli Runnfeldt
Timeline of the fast spread of e-cigarettes.

Some, like senior and TUPE member Delaney Anderson, see this transformation as a win.

“It’s the start of banning e-cigarettes in other states and counties and I think it’s great that San Francisco did that because hopefully they’ll be a leader in a movement of banning them,” Anderson said.

Others, like the Juul company themselves, believe that by banning e-cigarettes, current cigarette users who want more effective options to help them quit may be limited. Because of this, they have supported a movement to add the decision allowing those 21 and older to purchase e-cigarettes to the ballot in November.

Dr. Steven A. Schroeder, a professor at the University of California, San Francisco, believes the recent ban has grave dangers to the adult population. 

On the face of it, it’s ludicrous that we would ban e-cigarettes, but permit the sale of tobacco and cannabis,” Schroeder said in an interview with the New York Times.

He believes it will likely please parents who are concerned about their children becoming wrapped up in vaping, but it is harmful to adult public health.

Gee said they are banning all e-cigarettes only until they are deemed safe for public use.

“Our legislation was really to try to get Juul to go through the FDA process. They’ve had three years to go through this process but they keep trying to just delay it,” Gee said. “Basically, if they do get the FDA approval… they will be able to sell their products here in San Francisco again,” Gee said. 

One of the many ways the Board of Supervisors hope to combat teen nicotine addiction is through the lack of accessibility. According to Anderson, TUPE students wish for this as well. 

“I’m hoping that it will prevent kids from driving to San Francisco to get products. I know there’s other ways that kids get it, but I am hoping it will help,” Anderson said. 

Anderson believes that as Juul products become less accessible, the people selling them will raise the prices. Therefore, if the prices significantly increase, students and others may be less willing to purchase products, similar to Olivia’s case.

“I started because it was available to me, and I never would have started if it had been difficult from the beginning,” Olivia said.

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