After the recent passing of a new city ordinance banning the sale of flavored tobacco products, there was a tremendous outcry from the vaping community. Let’s Be Real San Francisco is a coalition which was created to fight the unjust prohibition, due to take place beginning April 2018, announcing the launch of their effort to gather signatures from San Francisco voters to force the Board of Supervisors to place referendum on the ballot – giving the voters the final say on whether the ordinance shall pass or not.
Let’s Be Real SF calls the ordinance a “flawed plan” claiming the ban will push sales to the underground economy. They warn that the ban could also boost sales to underage kids and will negatively impact the local economy, forcing vapers to travel to neighboring cities for their products and ultimately becoming the demise of local businesses. Essentially, they are doing their part in poking holes in this flawed and poorly thought-out ordinance, allowing residents to band together and fight for their rights to sell and purchase the products they want.
Below is a Q&A from Adults Like Flavors, they along with Not Blowing Smoke have headed the fight against flavor bans. “We hope to slow the tide of legislators at all levels of government denying science, personal liberty and less harmful alternatives to smoking. We believe more than ever that vapor products represent the single greatest opportunity for Americans to make the switch away from cigarettes.” – AdultsLikeFlavors.org
Q: What is a referendum?
A: While it’s generally understood to be a vote in some way, in this specific instance, there are a few extra bits to consider. Signatures will be gathered on a petition and submitted with a request for a referendum. Once filed, the city of San Francisco can either throw out the flavor ban, hold a special election near the end of 2017 (costing SF taxpayers millions), or add it to the July 2018 primaries ballot. It means voters, not bureaucrats, get to decide on whether the prohibition is a better alternative than allowing smokers access to safer products.
Q: If the election is July 2018 and the ordinance goes into effect April 2018, aren’t we too late?
A: No. When a referendum is filed, the ordinance being challenged is suspended until the election is over.
Q: Why not sue the city?
A: In reviewing the ordinance and applicable case law with our allied organizations and several attorneys, we do not believe litigation is a sensible strategy. While there are some who believe a lawsuit is appropriate in challenging San Francisco’s ban, we know that courts will routinely reaffirm the rights of municipal governments to pass laws they believe to be in the best interest of the public. Additionally, litigation is extremely costly; asking the California vaping industry to fund attorneys at this point for a case that could easily run well beyond November 8th, 2018 is not a prudent recommendation.
As noted above, the referendum filing will suspend the ordinance. Once that suspension occurs, any lawsuit would most likely be held over pending the outcome. We have explored several strategies with our partners and believe that a referendum not only gives us the best chance of correcting San Francisco’s mistake but will discourage other cities from taking an outdated prohibitionist approach toward vapor products.
Q: How can I help?
A: By sharing official messaging from the Let’s Be Real campaign on social media and talking about the issue of flavor bans with friends, family, and other likely voters. It’s important to note that ballot committees are a very specific beast in California. Creating your own content incorporating Let’s Be Real slogans, text or images without approval and official designation from the committee may subject you to California election reform laws, which involve reporting of efforts and funding.
Q: All the emails, calls, and attending hearings didn’t stop this from passing. Am I wasting my time?
A: Absolutely not! Having your opposition to this ordinance on record is paramount in additional action being taken after the vote was final. Not Blowing Smoke would like to thank everyone who attended hearings, meetings, and did their part online, in writing, and by making phone calls. Imagine how it would look if there was no opposition at all until after the vote.