San Francisco Supervisors Refuse to Repeal Menthol Ban

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San Francisco Supervisors Refuse to Repeal Menthol Ban

09/06/2017

SAN FRANCISCO — The San Francisco Board of Supervisors opted not to reconsider its ban on sales of flavored tobacco, including menthol, during a Sept. 5 meeting.

Voters will have the chance to vote for or against a repeal of the law next June, reported the San Francisco Examiner.

The ban was passed in June, to be enacted in April 2018, as CSNews Online previously reported. However, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. funded the "Let's Be Real, San Francisco — Coalition to Qualify Referendum on Flavored Tobacco Sales Ban" campaign and successfully gathered enough signatures to place on the ballot a referendum that would overturn the ban.

The board had the opportunity to reconsider the ban and repeal the law ahead of the referendum, but voted unanimously against doing so.

"No cowering to R.J. Reynolds," said supervisor Malia Cohen, who introduced the flavored tobacco ban. "It's offensive that a company that kills people for a living is singularly bankrolling a campaign that they claim is about freedom of choice. Their campaign is all about protecting their products and cultivating new smokers and getting them hooked."

Local business associations spoke out in support of repeal, predicting that the ban will adversely affect businesses such as corner stores.

"You can't expect someone to build a business entirely anew when you've cut the legs off from underneath them and decide to criminalize a business they've been operating," said Miriam Zouzounis, a board member for the Arab American Grocers Association and a member of the San Francisco Small Business Commission.

Others predicted that the ban will only create a black market for flavored tobacco and menthol.

"Banning flavored tobacco products or any other substance people might want to put into their bodies is absolutely the wrong way to go," said Starchild, vice chair of the Libertarian Party in San Francisco. "Look at the history of the war on drugs. Banning stuff ... does not work. All you do is create a black market and that creates more opportunities for police officers to target people in these marginalized communities."