By Kevin Kelleher
March 19, 2019

Officials in San Francisco proposed two bills that would ban the sale of e-cigarettes in the city as well as prevent e-cigarette companies like Juul from opening new offices on city-owned property.

The bills were authored by San Francisco District Attorney Dennis Herrera and Supervisor Shamann Walton. One of them would ban e-cigarettes in San Francisco unless the FDA has reviewed e-cigarettes. The Food and Drug Administration is giving e-cigarette companies until August 2021 to submit applications.

Hererra, who has joined officials from Chicago and New York in asking the FDA to evaluate impact of e-cigarettes on public health, told Reuters that he believes the FDA “failed to do its job” by not reviewing the products before they were allowed to be sold.

The other proposed bill would ban companies that make, sell, or distribute e-cigarettes from doing business on city property. Juul, the largest e-cigarette maker, is headquartered in city-owned buildings in the city’s Dogpatch neighborhood, which is in Walton’s district. The bill wouldn’t force Juul to relocate but would prevent e-cigarette companies from renting office space on city property in the future.

Walton told the San Francisco Chronicle that the bills were intended as a message to Juul that they’re not wanted in San Francisco.“I don’t eventually want to see them leave this city,” Walton said. “I would have liked for them to have been gone yesterday.”

“We share the City of San Francisco’s concerns with youth usage of tobacco and vapor products, including our own,” Juul responded to Fortune in a statement. “But this proposed legislation’s primary impact will be to limit adult smokers’ access to products that can help them switch away from combustible cigarettes. We encourage the City of San Francisco to severely restrict youth access but do so in a way that preserves the opportunity to eliminate combustible cigarettes.”

Separately, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said his meeting last week with tobacco giant Altria concerning its $12.8 million stake in Juul was “difficult,” adding that his impression was that Altria’s interest in Juul was motivated more by business than by public health concerns over combustible cigarettes.

Last fall, Gottlieb declared that e-cigarette use among teenagers has reach an “epidemic proportion” and took steps to limit e-cigarette sales, including restrictions on the sale of fruit-flavored pods. Gottlieb, who announced this month he’s stepping down as head of the FDA, has said the agency would consider pulling all pod-based e-cigarettes from the market if teen vaping doesn’t decrease.

Altria’s stock closed down 2.3% at $56.01 a share Tuesday.

 

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