August 6, 2019

Coalition for Reasonable Vaping Regulation Denounces False Claims in Ballot Digest Language, Reaffirms Intent to Uphold SF Flavor Ban

Coalition counsel calls on City Attorney Herrera to recuse himself from any role in the ballot initiative due to conflict of interest

JUUL Labs, Inc. Chief Administrative Officer submits signed affidavit to City officials declaring intent of the ballot initiative to uphold existing flavor ban law

San Francisco, CA— Leadership and legal counsel for the Coalition for Reasonable Vaping Regulation called for City Attorney Dennis Herrera to recuse himself from any and all involvement with the stop youth vaping ballot initiative due to an egregious conflict of interest and non-impartial drafting of ballot digest language that misinforms voters about the status of the San Francisco flavor ban.

Leadership for the Coalition for Reasonable Vaping Regulation and JUUL Labs, Inc. Chief Administrative Officer Ashley Gould were present at this morning’s Board of Elections Ballot Simplification Committee.

In their comments to the committee, Gould and Coalition counsel Jim Sutton asked that incorrect and misleading language drafted by the City Attorney’s office regarding the potential overturning of the flavor ban be removed.  Upon completion of the meeting, the Ballot Simplification Committee chose to leave the language intact, which says:

“…. The measure may also repeal other existing City laws that apply to vapor products, including the City law that prohibits the sale of flavored vapor products.”

“The Ballot Simplification Committee failed to protect the voters of San Francisco by allowing the City Attorney to include false claims on the ballot digest,” said Coalition communications director Nate Allbee. “The biggest proponent for the City’s vaping ban is also the man who wrote the bill - City Attorney Dennis Herrera. The City Attorney’s actions are deeply troubling. It is absurd that the same Department would be trusted to craft unbiased ballot language for our opposing Initiative. The Committee is supposed to safeguard the voters in the face of these conflicts—and that didn’t happen today. We are asking the Ballot Simplification Committee to reconsider and to remove the biased language.” 

The Coalition and JUUL Labs, Inc. submitted a number of documents today to reaffirm the intent of the ballot initiative to uphold and preserve the flavor ban, which San Francisco voters approved in 2018.

As part of her comments before the committee, JUUL Labs, Inc. CAO Gould submitted a signed affidavit that confirmed the intent of the ballot initiative on behalf of the company, which states:

“…. It was always intended that the flavor ban, including its extension, would remain in effect. These flavor ban provisions are consistent with the Initiative, which was consciously designed to build on an incorporate existing regulation of vapor products and tobacco products more generally.”

Coalition counsel Jim Sutton also spoke about the intent of the initiative, submitting the second of two letters to the committee and City officials confirming the preservation of the flavor ban. The new letter, which was submitted, Monday, August 5th, calls on City Attorney Dennis Herrera and the City Attorney’s Office at large to recuse itself from any further role in the ballot initiative due to a conflict of interest.  Said conflict is tied to the City Attorney’s role in writing, lobbying for and speaking publicly in support of the vaping ban despite his Department’s mandated role as an impartial arbiter on all City-related ballot initiatives.  The letter explains:

“Your office has an ethical and statutory obligation to the public and to the democratic process to provide true and impartial summaries of the Initiative, and to remain completely neutral in all advice given to the Department of Elections and City about the electoral process.”

“City Attorney Herrera has demonstrated an unprecedented level of involvement on this issue, raising ethical questions and necessitating the established protocol of recusal by the entire Department,” Sutton said. “The actions of the City Attorney go far beyond tipping the scales - this is a conflict so egregious it demanded a public call for the Department to remove itself entirely from any further action on this Initiative.”

Following today’s meeting, the Coalition asked the Ballot Simplification Committee for a reconsideration of their request to remove the language in question. The Committee will review any reconsideration requests submitted by either side.  The final ballot digest language is expected by the end of next week.

“We hope the materials submitted to the Committee and the clear conflict of interest displayed by the City Attorney’s office will compel them to remove the language, as it is abundantly clear the flavor ban is not impacted by the Initiative,” Sutton said. “If the Committee does not remove the language, the Coalition is prepared to take legal action so that voters can have a true, impartial ballot in November.”

For more information, or to obtain copies of any of the submitted documents, please contact:

For more information on the Coalition, please visit our website:

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.

Ad paid for by Coalition for Reasonable Vaping Regulation, including neighborhood grocers and small businesses.  Committee major funding from Juul Labs.  Financial disclosures are available at