Ballot Initiative Attorneys Confirm SF Flavor Ban Will Remain Intact

Coalition submits letter to the city attorney’s office clarifying intent to leave flavor ban in place, add stringent regulations to prevent youth access to vaping products

San Francisco, CA— Lawyers for the Coalition for Reasonable Vaping Regulation submitted a letter to the Office of the City Attorney today, making clear the City’s ban on flavored vaping products would not in any way be rolled back or affected by the ballot initiative.  The letter to the attorneys clearly stipulates the intent of the ballot initiative and what regulations would be implemented if the measure passes this November.  The Coalition submitted this letter as an additional measure to dispel any confusion or claims that the flavor ban would be repealed if the measure passes.

In the letter, attorney Jim Sutton requests that the deputy city attorneys responsible for drafting the ballot measure language not include anything about the flavor ban. The letter explains:

“Opponents of the Initiative have recently advanced a claim in the press that the Initiative

would repeal the ban on flavored tobacco products which was adopted by the voters in 2018 and

which was then extended by the Board of Supervisors earlier this year (collectively referred to

herein as the “flavor ban”). That is false. The Initiative does not intend to repeal the flavor ban,

and any legal analysis of the Initiative must conclude that it does not repeal the ban…

…. The entire text, structure and context of the Initiative makes clear that it was meant to build on and supplement, and not supersede, the regulations of vapor products which were already in place, and also to apply certain regulations applicable to tobacco products also to vapor products.

…. In addition, the Initiative imposes a number of new regulations that were not already

applicable to traditional tobacco products, including online seller permits, additional advertising

regulations, etc.

Again, the text and context of the Initiative make clear that it was intended to

supplement, and not repeal, pre-existing regulations.

What the Initiative was meant to supersede -- what is irreconcilable with the Initiative --

is the complete prohibition on the sale of vapor products adopted by the Board of Supervisors in

June, found in Health Code Sections 19R.2 and 19S.2(b).

…. It seems that opponents of the Initiative may shape their campaign around the claim that

the flavor ban would be repealed, perhaps because the claim polls well. But such a claim is not

consistent with the law, and, as this letter confirms, is not consistent with the proponent’s

intention. We therefore urge your office to reject any suggestion that this claim be included in

the draft Digest.”

“It is imperative for the people of San Francisco to have transparency at the voting booth so that they can make educated decisions,” said Jim Sutton, attorney for the Coalition for Reasonable Vaping Regulation. “We felt it necessary to take this extra step to reassure the City and its residents that despite what has been said in the public arena, there is no intent whatsoever to change or undo the flavor ban.  This ballot initiative contains a series of stringent regulations that, if passed, will be additional means by which we can successfully address the youth vaping crisis.  Our intent is clear: we want to build upon existing law and put in place proven regulations to tackle this problem head on.”

The ban on flavored tobacco products, which includes flavored cigarettes as well as vaping products, was enacted in 2018 and extended to on-line sales in 2019.  The Coalition ballot initiative cannot undo existing law unless it explicitly intends to do so. The ballot initiative does not reference the flavor ban at all, and the letter from Sutton explains that is because there will be no effect on that existing law if the measure passes in November.

“False claims made by opponents to the initiative must be put to rest, once and for all,” said Nate Allbee, Coalition communications director. “The Coalition is working in good faith to bring the strongest regulation of vaping products in the country to San Francisco. This ballot initiative will set a new standard for the nation on how to keep vaping products out of the hands of kids. Talk of the flavor ban being undone has been a distraction from day one.  Today, with this letter, we can get back to the facts of youth prevention, harm reduction and public health so that voters can decide.”

The Coalition has requested this letter be included in the formal public file for of the upcoming Ballot Simplification Committee hearing. 

A copy of the letter can be found on the Coalition website:


Media interested in speaking with Coalition leadership and counsel, please contact:

The Coalition for Reasonable Vaping Regulation is an alliance of San Francisco residents, businesses, and community leaders who believe in common sense regulation preventing youth access and preserving adult choice. The coalition was created in response to a proposed ban by the City of San Francisco on the sale of vapor products. This ban would be harmful not only to adult choice, but also to the city’s economy. The coalition provides a platform for concerned residents, business owners and community organizations so that we can take strong actions to further fight underage use while still preserving access to products that can help adult smokers switch from cigarettes.

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