San Francisco residents on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly to ban flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes and vape liquids, in what is seen nationally as a blow to the tobacco industry.
Proposition E, which was authored by Supervisor Malia Cohen and placed on the ballot by the Board of Supervisors, was approved by 69 percent of voters, according to the Department of Elections.
Tobacco companies and other opponents of the ban flooded more than $11.5 million into a campaign against the measure, dollar amounts not seen in a San Francisco election since a sugary beverage tax landed on the ballot. By contrast, proponents depended on a $2.3 million war chest to pass the measure.
Cohen and other proponents of Prop. E allege flavored tobacco is used to target children as future customers.
“Tobacco companies have a long history of developing and marketing flavored tobacco products as ‘starter’ products that attract kids,” Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, previously told the San Francisco Examiner.
“These products come in flavors like gummy bear, cotton candy and banana smash that clearly appeal to kids, and they’re often colorfully packaged to look just like candy and other kid-friendly products,” he added.
Proponents of Prop. E include the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, the African-American Tobacco Control Leadership Council, the San Francisco Marin Medical Society and the NICOS Chinese Health Coalition, among others, according to the San Francisco Department of Elections.
Local opponents of Prop. E include Shan Richard, the vice president of the San Francisco NAACP, David Goldman of the Brownie Mary Democratic Club, and a man named Ismail Karajah who in the ballot pamphlet said a ban on flavored tobacco is “insensitive to many Middle Easterners who have used hookah as part of their cultural practices for centuries.”
Miriam Zouzounis of the Arab American Grocers Association told the Examiner during a recent editorial board meeting that banning menthol cigarettes threatens the livelihoods of corner markets across The City.