June 29, 2017

Stanton A. Glantz, PhD

San Francisco passes landmark ban on sale of flavored tobacco products, including menthol

Earlier this week the San Francisco Board of Supervisors (the local legislative body) unanimously passed second reading of the strongest law in the country limiting sales of flavored tobacco products.  It prohibits sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol, anywhere in the City and County of San Francisco.  Mayor Ed Lee has already said that he will sign the law.  It will take effect April 1, 2018.
Supervisor Malia Cohen and her legislative aide Brittni Chicuata really did their homework on this issue.  At the three hour committee hearing on the bill Supervisor Cohen showed a real in-depth understanding and even challenged some of the “tobacco industry talking points” that were dutifully presented by some locals. 
The industry is clearly worried that this law could break the dam on local flavor bans (just as the San Francisco smokefree law did back in the 1980s) and flew several lobbyists out to testify against the ordinance.  One even specifically threated to sue. (Surprise!)  They even ran radio ads and brought their road show, featuring Al Sharpton, to town.
Everyone does expect the industry to sue even though they have consistently lost challenges about other more limited laws elsewhere.  This is nothing new; the industry routinely sued to stop clean indoor air laws and that didn’t stop progress.
While courageous and well-informed legislators are key to wins like this, so is all the spade work done by public health leaders, in this case Valerie Yerger, Phil Gardiner, and Carol McGruder, who have been crisscrossing the country working with local leaders to counter the tobacco industry’s longstanding efforts to co-opt the African American (and other minority) leadership organizations.  They not only countered this effort, but now several such organizations, including the NAACP, now support local menthol bans.
The UCSF Helen Diller Comprehensive Cancer Center’s SFCAN community partnership also helped educate and engage the public on this issue, as did the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council
This law, and the ones that preceded it, are yet another example of how the real leadership in fighting big tobacco is still coming at the community level.  Had the Obama Administration allowed the FDA to deal with menthol these laws would not have been necessary.  And Congress is busy trying to further hobble the FDA.
The San Francisco law is already being viewed as a model elsewhere.  And Valerie, Phil, and Carol and their allies are doing everything they can to speed the process.

We should all help them.



Some may wish this had been done by FDA which has more power to act.
FDA may have more power; what it doesn't have is action.
FDA has had eight years and hasn't gotten flavors done. Don't expect anything in eighteen years or eighty.
Local, limitations and all, starts to look pretty good.
And: the industry fought this. Hard. That tells us something.
Congratulations advocates!
Jon Krueger


Let me both express my appreciation for the leadership Valerie, Carol and Phil have provided and echo Valerie’s comments about the value and importance of this action.
Mike – the law goes beyond labeling – it will ban flavored products – that means products that have an identifiable flavor whatever the name the seller gives the product.  In that respect, it acts like  the federal ban on cigarettes with characterizing flavors – not as good as a ban on the use of flavors altogether, but a very valuable step forward, especially for the impact of the ban on menthol cigarettes

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