Whether San Francisco’s ballot measure, Proposition C – supported by JUUL Labs and purportedly a youth access law – would allow flavored e-cigarettes back onto store shelves in San Francisco, overturning city laws passed in 2019 and 2017 that were intended to ban e-cigarettes not regulated by the FDA and to keep products like Juul’s mango and cucumber nicotine pods out of the hands of teens.
In June 2019, San Francisco enacted restrictions on the sale of e-cigarettes unless they were authorized by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. A year earlier, San Francisco voters overwhelmingly approved a proposition supporting a 2017 law that bans the sale of flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes and flavored vaping liquids. In the meantime, Juul Labs, which commands at least three-quarters of the e-cigarette market and is headquartered in San Francisco, has spearheaded a ballot measure for the November 2019 election that would have a detrimental impact on the City’s e-cigarette ordinance and could weaken, if not repeal, the City’s 2017 flavored tobacco product restrictions on e-cigarettes. On August 30, 2019, the SF Kids v. Big Tobacco Coalition, joined by the Public Health Law Center and twelve other leading public health and medical organizations, filed an amicus brief in the Superior Court of the State of California, San Francisco, asking the court to retain language in the ballot question and official ballot digest that would describe Proposition C’s likely impact on these two San Francisco tobacco control laws. The brief, in particular, points out that Proposition C could repeal the city’s flavored e-cigarette restrictions and would overturn the city’s ordinance restricting the sale of e-cigarettes lacking required FDA authorization. The brief argues that statements in the ballot question and digest that point out these potential effects of Proposition C are not false, misleading, or biased, but true – and should thus be retained.
On September 6, 2019, a San Francisco Superior Court judge rejected Juul’s attempt to remove language from November’s ballot that Proposition C “may” overturn the City’s ban on flavored e-cigarettes.