SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - Electronic cigarette company Juul Labs said Tuesday it's taken aggressive action to make sure their products stay out of the hands of young people after San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera announced measures that would effectively stop the company from expanding in the city.
In a statement, the San Francisco-based company said, "We share the city of San Francisco's concerns with youth usage of tobacco and vapor products, including our own."
According to Juul, it's taken action nationwide, including halting the sale of flavored products to retailers and supporting regulations that aim to curb youth smoking.
Juul's response comes after Herrera said the Food and Drug Administration has failed to conduct a required pre-market review for e-cigarettes before they were allowed to be sold in stores.
"The FDA has given the e-cigarette industry a pass. For no clear reason, the FDA has given these nicotine companies until 2022 to apply for what was supposed to be a pre-market review. The result is that millions of children are already addicted to e-cigarettes and millions more will follow if we don't act," he said.
"These companies may hide behind the veneer of harm reduction but let's be clear, their product is addiction. They're in the business of getting people addicted or keeping them addicted," he said. "Now it's up to local governments like San Francisco to protect our children."
Herrera announced that his office has teamed up with the cities of Chicago and New York to send a letter to FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb to demand that the agency conduct the required public health review of e-cigarettes, which Herrera says was already supposed to have been conducted
years ago. If the FDA does not conduct the review, the cities are threatening possible legal action.
Second and third measures to curb youth access to e-cigarettes in the city involve separate pieces of legislation introduced by Supervisor Shamann Walton at Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting.
One ordinance would prohibit citywide sales of any e-cigarette that has not undergone FDA review. It would also prohibit those products from being bought online or shipped to a San Francisco address.
The other ordinance would prohibit the sale, manufacture and distribution of e-cigarettes on city property, as well as Port of San Francisco property.
That legislation would stop Juul, which subleases property on San Francisco's waterfront, from doing business and expanding.
"E-cigarettes have been targeting our young people with their colors and their flavors and enticing our adolescents and this is predatorily pulling them toward nicotine addiction," Walton said.
Furthermore, Herrera said his office sent notice on Tuesday to Juul and the Pier 70 developer that Juul subleases from, seeking an explanation for why the e-cigarette company holds a tobacco distributor
license at the location while maintaining that Juul does not sell tobacco products.
"What Juul is doing is irresponsible," Walton said.
According to Juul, however, their products can help smokers transition away from smoking regular cigarettes and Walton's legislation would leave people trying to quit smoking with fewer options.
"This proposed legislation's primary impact will be to limit adult smokers' access to products that can help them switch away from combustible cigarettes. We encourage the city of San Francisco to severely restrict youth access but do so in a way that preserves the opportunity to eliminate
combustible cigarettes. This proposed legislation begs the question -- why would the city be comfortable with combustible cigarettes being on shelves when we know they will kill more than 480,000 Americans per year?"
If Walton's proposals pass, they would add to an already restrictive list of saleable tobacco products in the city.
In 2017, the city passed legislation to restrict the sale of all flavored tobacco including menthol cigarettes.