The Victims of San Francisco’s Vape Ban

Just a few weeks ago, San Francisco’s Mayor London Breed signed the country’s most comprehensive anti-vaping bill. While the bill is not set to take effect until January 2020, the shockwaves of this impending law have already begun to spread throughout the vape industry. Local vape shops and vapers are rightly concerned about the fallout, and many vape shop owners are preparing to completely lose their business overnight.


“We have no future,” says Christopher Chin, owner of “Gone With the Smoke” in San Francisco. “We play by the rules, and they change the rules in the middle of the game.” This sentiment is shared by dozens of other small business owners throughout San Francisco, not to mention vapers themselves. While vape shops have a lengthy track record of responsible selling and legal compliance, stores which specialize in only vape products will likely have no way to remain in business once the moratorium is in place.


In fact, the extermination has already begun. Currently there are only three vape shops located in the San Francisco area, but this is a drop from about six or seven shops a couple years ago. Compared with large cities like New York and Los Angeles, this is an incredibly low vape shop density, which can seem odd for those who live in relatively vape-friendly areas. The thing is, San Francisco has always had a contentious relationship with tobacco – this latest bill is just their most recent shot across the industry bow.


As you get into the details of this bill’s implementation, the cracks in its internal logic begin to appear pretty quickly. Dedicated vape stores which only sell smokeless vaping devices will the be the hardest hit, with most of them expecting to shut down as soon as the bill takes effect. However, stores with other sources of income may be able to weather the storm.


In this case, we’re talking, ironically, about head shops which also sell tobacco and pipes. Places which haven’t specialized as heavily in vaping will be able to simply shift their focus more heavily to traditional nicotine delivery systems. You know, the products famous for killing millions of Americans every year. Other stores, including Gone With The Smoke, plan to shift their focus to CBD products, which are increasingly legal.

The irony of killing vape shops while leaving traditional cigarette vendors untouched seems completely lost on proponents of the upcoming bill. Their rallying cry of “Stop the youth vaping epidemic” seems to drown out their ability to hear any other perspective, even one as stark and harrowing as the juxtaposition between hazards posed by the stores going out of business with those posed by the ones who will remain.


The City Attorney’s office echoed this rallying cry, claiming that these new regulations are meant only to rescue youth from the hazards of nicotine addiction. If the side effect is wiping out an entire industry, then so be it. Likewise, Shamann Walton, co-author of the bill, claims that vapes are “loaded with nicotine and chemicals that’s drawing people to addiction”, echoing the refuted claim that vaping is a “gateway” to smoking.


Of course, the anti-vape argument leans heavily on pathos, and the cynical belief that you can push essentially any type of legislation, so long as you pretend it’s about saving the babies. A recent study by the Surgeon General just discovered that the vast majority of teenage vapers use less than 10 times per month. That’s not an addict – that’s a casual user trying to look cool at a weekend party with their friends. This is something to bear in mind when Walton and her ilk trot out some of their favorite statistics about the 78% growth in vaping and the 60% teen vaping rate.


Furthermore, the obliteration of small businesses in San Francisco is indicative of a disturbing through line to this entire debacle. The next war on the vaping frontier has to do with FDA approval; San Francisco’s ban was at least partially an attempt to force the FDA into action regarding vaping. The city wants all e-cigarette products to pass through the federal department for approval before being sold. The problem here is that an FDA approval process is incredibly expensive and time-consuming. The average vape or e-juice manufacturer simply has no chance, as there is no way for them to raise the necessary funding.


Once San Francisco gets what they want and the FDA process becomes standard, the vape industry will shrivel up overnight until there are only a few titans remaining – titans controlled by Big Tobacco. Just last month, Altria invested a gigantic chunk of change just in Juul Labs. Be prepared for more Big Tobacco money to come rolling in for a select few vape companies. Big Tobacco has been looking to regain their stranglehold over our country for years – and the histrionics surrounding the “vaping epidemic” provide them with the perfect cover to do exactly that. Meanwhile, the hapless Democrats and greedy Republicans are more than happy to play their part while the people on the ground floor like Christopher Chin and every vaper in San Francisco are obliged to pay the price.