Update: the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to pass the policy, effective April 2018. Mayor Ed Lee has indicated that he will sign the bill into law. The effective date was moved back from January 2018 to April to allow business owners time to sell off their existing inventory and replace it with something else (hopefully healthier items). Supervisor Malia Cohen voiced her support for increased city funding for the Healthy Retail San Francisco program, which helps small stores transition their business models.
On April 18th, San Francisco Supervisor, Malia Cohen, announced a proposed ban on menthol cigarettes and other flavored products within the city. Menthol is the only flavor excluded from the 2009 federal ban on flavored cigarettes as part of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Ac (FSPTCA). The tobacco industry targets African-American and LGBTQ communities in particular with menthol cigarette advertisements and products. Youth are particularly targeted when it comes to other flavored tobacco products, such as cigarillos and e-cigarettes, which are included in the proposed ban.
While other localities across the country have implemented policies prohibiting or restricting sales of flavored tobacco, most have exempted menthol cigarettes. Those that have included menthol, Chicago and Berkeley, only restrict the sale of the product near schools. San Francisco could become the first city to prohibit the sales of menthol cigarettes entirely.
A similar ordinance has now been proposed to Oakland City Council as menthol and broader flavored product bans begin to gain traction. The state of California has also recently imposed a higher tax on cigarettes and raised the smoking age to 21.
The 2009 FSPTCA ban on flavored cigarettes was associated with a 17% reduction in the probability of middle and high school youth becoming smokers and a 58% reduction in cigarettes smoked by current youth smokers. However, the ban was also associated with an increase 45% increase in use of menthol cigarettes, a 34% increase in use of cigars, and a 55% increase in use of pipes, indicating that youth may be substituting menthol cigarettes and other flavored tobacco products in place of flavored cigarettes. Overall, the probability of youth using any form of tobacco dropped by 6% following the ban on flavored cigarettes, showing the impact that restrictions on flavored tobacco products can have. However, the increases in use of other products that are commonly flavored is concerning and points towards the potential impact that more comprehensive restrictions on flavored tobacco, like those proposed in San Francisco, could have on youth tobacco use.
Find more on the San Francisco ban here.
You can also learn more about Menthol, Flavored Tobacco, and tobacco industry’s targeted advertising from the following links: