Tobacco

San Francisco a Step Closer to Banning Menthol Cigarettes

Legislation that would end the sale of all flavored-tobacco products is expected to pass next week

SAN FRANCISCO -- The San Francisco Board of Supervisors advanced legislation that would make it illegal for flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes, flavored chewing tobacco and flavored e-liquids containing nicotine, to be sold in the city.

The board vote on June 20 was unanimous. A second reading will happen next week, when the legislation is expected to pass, according to a NBC Bay Area report.

Supervisor Malia Cohen introduced the ordinance and said she’s willing to put off implementation until April 2018 to help businesses transition, the report said. It was originally set to take effect Jan. 1.

There are approximately 726 retailers, including small convenience stores or gas stations that sell fewer than 20 packs of cigarettes daily, that are permitted to sell tobacco products in San Francisco, according to the San Francisco Examiner.

The Small Business Commission, whose mission is to foster, promote and retain small businesses in the city and county of San Francisco, has openly opposed the ban for the effect it would have on bottom lines and the concern that patrons would only shop online or in other counties for the same products, the Examiner reported.

That bottom line could be a loss of millions of dollars in sales, the group said.

According to the City Controller’s Office of Economic Analysis, 35% of cigarettes sold in San Francisco are menthol flavored. Based on an average price of $8.50 per pack and the average number of packs sold per person at 212, it found that menthol sales total $50.5 million annually.

“This ordinance also ignores the fact that there are comprehensive state and local laws, that antitobacco advocates support as a means to curb youth access to tobacco, that are currently enforced,” said Angie Manetti, director of government relations for the California Retailers Association, in a June 8 letter to the board.

Matthew Myers, president of the national nonprofit Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, praised the ban and called on other Bay Area cities to follow suit.

“The evidence is clear that flavored tobacco products entice kids into tobacco addiction and harm the health of vulnerable communities,” Myers said in a statement. “By ending the sale of these products, San Francisco is taking another critical step to win the fight against tobacco and make the next generation tobacco-free.”

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