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San Franciscans Rally in Opposition to Tobacco Products Ban

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No on Prop E Kicks Off Campaign to Raise Awareness of Ban’s Impacts – Groups from Across the City, Representing Thousands of Residents, Expand Efforts to Oppose Supervisors’ Prohibition on Adult Consumer Choices

No on Prop E – Stop the Prohibition Proposition – today kicked off a two-month push to inform voters about the troubling paternalistic approach and serious unintended consequences involved with the Proposition E tobacco products ban. The campaign held a rally and press conference on the steps of City Hall, calling on all San Francisco voters to oppose the ban that would target adult consumer choices, potentially force many corner stores and other small businesses to close, and lead to underground markets and crime.

With exactly two months before Election Day and just 30 days before mail-in ballots are sent to voters, opponents of the ban on menthol cigarettes, hookah tobacco, virtually all vaping products, and many other tobacco products deemed to contain a characterizing flavor, urged voters to send a clear message to the Board of Supervisors: bans and prohibitions just don’t work.
California recently changed the legal age to purchase tobacco and vaping products to 21, so the only people who are banned from purchasing these products under Prop E are adults,” said Carlos Solorzano of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “Telling adults what consumer choices they can and cannot make flies in the face of San Francisco’s values and is not what this City is all about.”

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Solorzano noted that dozens of community groups, business associations and civic organizations representing thousands of City residents have signed on to support the No on Prop E campaign, and more sign on every day.

Among them is Shawn Richard, a Bayview resident and founder of Brothers Against Guns, who told the crowd the ban represents another Prohibition that would inevitably lead to the growth of an underground market, where menthol cigarettes and other banned tobacco products are sold on street corners and out of the trunks of cars.

“This ban will just bring more police into communities of color and invite unnecessary and dangerous confrontations,” Richard said.  He cited the case of Eric Garner, who was stopped by New York City police for selling cigarettes on the street illegally, was choked in the confrontation to arrest him, and died. “Instead of bringing more criminalization into minority neighborhoods, the Supervisors should spend their time on the very real quality of life problems facing the city, like homelessness, affordable housing and car break-ins.”

The ban would have a devastating impact on small corner stores and neighborhood markets. A study by the City’s own Office of Economic Analysis estimated a loss of $50 million in annual retail sales, further stating that the resulting revenue loss would have a “material impact on the City’s economy.” Dozens of stores – including virtually all vaping stores in the City – would be forced to close. Many are owned by first- and second-generation Americans looking to make a better life for their families.

“As the record number of empty storefronts in the City demonstrate, the local fees and taxes imposed on small businesses make it difficult to survive,” said Miriam Zouzounis of the Arab American Grocers Association. “The ban on menthol cigarettes and other tobacco products deemed by the Board to have a characterizing flavor will be the last straw for many mom and pop stores.”

Speakers at the press conference accused the Supervisors of misleading voters about what is covered by the ban. While proponents like to use a few exotic vaping flavors as props in their public appearances, flavored vapes – which are already illegal to sell to anyone under 21 – comprise just a tiny fraction of the banned products.

Over 34,000 people signed petitions in just three weeks to place the misguided ban on the ballot, believing that the Board of Supervisors overstepped their boundaries of “protecting kids” and crossed the line into prohibiting adult choices.

Many No on Prop E coalition members have commented that the ban on menthol cigarettes, which are preferred by adult smokers in African-American communities, is paternalistic – as if the Supervisors don’t trust adults in their community to make their own choices.

Proposition E also bans shisha and hookah tobacco, which has been part of many Middle Eastern and Asian cultures for centuries.

Proposition E bans virtually all vaping liquids, even though there’s more and more evidence that points to vaping as a potentially less harmful alternative to cigarette smoking. Studies have shown that smokers looking to quit prefer flavored vaping products in order to distance themselves from the tobacco experience. This, along with increased education, is one of the reasons cigarette use statistics among all age groups in the country are at historical lows and continue to decline.

Proposition E also bans nearly all smokeless tobacco products — a category of tobacco products that scientists say present substantially less risk than cigarettes.

The coalition pointed out that if the Board of Supervisors really want to further reduce teen access to tobacco, they should strictly enforce California’s new Age 21 law and focus efforts on spending the millions available from recently enacted tobacco tax increases for education, healthcare and enforcement.

“Reducing teen tobacco access is a goal we all support, but this ban on adult products is not the way to do it,” said Solorzano, adding that stores in San Francisco have a 96 percent compliance rate during sting operations on sales to underage decoys. “Instead of limiting adult choices, we should continue to enforce the age restrictions, hold retailers who violate the law accountable, and use the tax revenue to educate youth on why they should never smoke.”

SOURCE No on Prop E

Currently located in Sydney, Australia, I have been vaping since 2009 and became active in the e-cigarette industry in late 2015. Since then I’ve had the pleasure of visiting over 700 shops in 6 countries.

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