Juul loses home turf as San Francisco bans e-cigarette sales

June 25 (Reuters) - San Francisco will become the first major city in the United States to ban the sale of e-cigarettes as officials look to control the rapid uptick in teenage use of nicotine devices made by companies such as Juul Labs Inc.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved the ordinance on Tuesday, banning the sale and distribution of e-cigarettes until they have approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

States and cities across the United States have already moved to ban flavored e-cigarettes and raise the legal age for purchasing tobacco products to 21, but San Francisco's new approach is the most far-reaching yet.

No other major cities have proposed a similar hardline ban, though San Francisco's move could lead others to consider it.

The city council in Beverly Hills, California, this month approved a ban on the sale of tobacco products beginning 2021, though it carved out exceptions for some cigar lounges and hotels. Juul, which is based in San Francisco and has grown to be the dominant e-cigarette maker in the United States, has been at the center of the debate. As its sales soared over the last two years, so did its popularity among teenagers.

Federal data last year showed a 78% increase in e-cigarette use among U.S. high schoolers, and state and local lawmakers have been grappling with how to regulate Juul and other similar products.

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E-cigarettes and vaping

Employee at Cloud 10, an e-cigarette store in Simi Valley, CA, demonstrates the type of smoke, with no smell, comes out of an electric cigarette. Sales are Booming at this store.

(Lynne Gilbert via Getty Images

A customer exhales vapor while smoking an electric cigarette at the Betamorph E-Cigs store in Albuquerque, New Mexico, U.S., on Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016. Sales in the U.S. vapor-device market are projected to rise by 21% annually through 2020, based on Euromonitor Passport data.

(Sergio Flores/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

An e-cigarette store in Simi Valley, CA, called Cloud 10, displays various types of electric cigarettes juice flavors for sale. Sales are Booming at this store.

(Lynne Gilbert via Getty Images)

Indonesian teenager exhaling smoke from Electric Cigarettes (e-cigarettes) as seen in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia on December 5, 2014 night. Electric cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are increasingly popular in Indonesia, especially among teenagers. In fact, cigarettes are actually more harmful than regular cigarettes with an increasing number of patients with poisoning after using electronic cigarettes and nicotine liquid continues to increase. The World Health Organization (WHO) notes, electronic cigarette brand has been produced in 466, 8,000 taste, spending budget of US $ 3 billion.

(Photo by Ivan Damanik/NurPhoto) 

Gdynia, Poland 29th, Dec. 2015 Polish Ministry of Health plans to ban electronic cigarettes sales to persons under the age of 18, restrictions on advertising and promotion and to introduce to them technical requirements. The new Tobacco Control law will come into force in the 2nd quarter of 2016. Pictured: Lady smokes electronic cigarette.

(Michal Fludra/Corbis via Getty Images)

Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand smokes an electric cigarette during day two of the World Cup of Golf at Kingston Heath Golf Club on November 25, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia.

(Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Electric cigarette 'juice' w/various flavors.This is at Cloud 10 in Simi Valley, CA This brand is the most popular at this store. Santa Monica just passed the law no e-cigarettes allowed anywhere. Business is booming at this location.

(Lynne Gilbert via Getty Images

Mitchell Baker who works at the Vapour Place a vaping shop in Bedminster, exhales vapour produced by an e-cigarette on December 30, 2016 in Bristol, England. Recent figures released by the e-cigarette industry has claimed that there as many as 1700 vaping shops across the country, with two new ones opening each day catering for the estimated three million vapers in the UK. The popularity of e-cigarettes has boomed in the last ten years, as it is seen by many as a healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes, however some critics say the devices can carry the same risks as smoking especially as the long term affects are yet to be known.

(Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

E-cigarette merchandise is displayed for sale at the Vapour Place a vaping shop in Bedminster, on December 30, 2016 in Bristol, England. Recent figures released by the e-cigarette industry has claimed that there as many as 1700 vaping shops across the country, with two new ones opening each day catering for the estimated three million vapers in the UK. The popularity of e-cigarettes has boomed in the last ten years, as it is seen by many as a healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes, however some critics say the devices can carry the same risks as smoking especially as the long term affects are yet to be known.

(Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

A reveller dressed in a Father Christmas costume smokes from an electronic cigarette device as he takes part in Santacon outside Euston Station on December 10, 2016 in London, England. Santacon is an annual parade taking place in cities around the world and sees revellers dressed in Father Christmas costumes take to the streets to spread seasonal cheer.

(Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

Flavored vape juice bottles are displayed for sale at the Betamorph E-Cigs store in Albuquerque, New Mexico, U.S., on Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016. Sales in the U.S. vapor-device market are projected to rise by 21% annually through 2020, based on Euromonitor Passport data.

(Sergio Flores/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

A woman smokes an electronic cigarette during the Vapexpo 2015 Moscow, at Sokolniki Exhibition Center on December 05, 2015, in Moscow, Russia.

(Photo by Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

This picture taken on November 19, 2015 shows bottles of concentrated flavors displayed at a vape shop in Kuala Lumpur. Vaping' is soaring in popularity in Malaysia, the largest e-cigarette market in the Asia-Pacific region, but authorities are threatening to ban the habit in for health reasons -- a move that has sparked anger from growing legions of aficionados.

(MOHD RASFAN/AFP/Getty Images)

A man smokes an E-Cigarette in the Vape Lab coffee bar, on August 27, 2014 in London, England. The Department of Health have ruled out the outlawing of 'e-cigs' in enclosed spaces in England, despite calls by WHO, The World Health Organisation to do so. WHO have recommended a ban on indoor smoking of e-cigs as part of tougher regulation of products dangerous to children.

(Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

This picture taken on November 19, 2015 shows a worker (R) inspecting a coil, the metal heating element in an e-cigarette that produces vapour from e-juices, at a vape shop in Kuala Lumpur. Vaping' is soaring in popularity in Malaysia, the largest e-cigarette market in the Asia-Pacific region, but authorities are threatening to ban the habit in for health reasons -- a move that has sparked anger from growing legions of aficionados.

(MOHD RASFAN/AFP/Getty Images)

A woman smokes an electronic cigarette during the Vapexpo 2015 Moscow, at Sokolniki Exhibition Center on December 05, 2015, in Moscow, Russia.

(Photo by Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

A customer smokes an E-Cigarette at Digital Ciggz on January 28, 2015 in San Rafael, California. The California Department of Public Health released a report today that calls E-Cigarettes a health threat and suggests that they should be regulated like regular cigarettes and tobacco products.

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

E-Cigarettes are sold at the V-Revolution E-Cigarette shop in Covent Garden on August 27, 2014 in London, England. The Department of Health have ruled out the outlawing of 'e-cigs' in enclosed spaces in England, despite calls by WHO, The World Health Organisation to do so. WHO have recommended a ban on indoor smoking of e-cigs as part of tougher regulation of products dangerous to children.

(Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

In this photo illustration, a man smokes an E-Cigarette at the V-Revolution E-Cigarette shop in Covent Garden on August 27, 2014 in London, England. The Department of Health have ruled out the outlawing of 'e-cigs' in enclosed spaces in England, despite calls by WHO, The World Health Organisation to do so. WHO have recommended a ban on indoor smoking of e-cigs as part of tougher regulation of products dangerous to children.

(Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

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San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera, who spearheaded the ordinance earlier this year, praised the move and said it was necessary because of what he called an "abdication of responsibility" by the FDA in regulating e-cigarettes. E-cigarettes have existed in a regulatory gray area for years. Its makers originally faced a 2018 deadline to submit applications to the FDA to sell products, but the deadline was pushed back to 2022.

Amid the surge in teenage use, the FDA in March moved up that deadline to 2021. A separate court case from anti-tobacco groups may force the FDA to set an earlier deadline.

"This lack of clarity is causing tremendous confusion at the same time that a whole new generation of young people are getting addicted to nicotine," Herrera told Reuters. "The explosion in youth use and the health risks to young people are undeniable."

San Francisco Supervisor Shamann Walton, who sponsored the ordinance, said he has been constantly hearing from young people about e-cigarettes and "how readily available they are in schools, the fact that they're easily hidden from educators."

After Tuesday's vote, Juul spokesman Ted Kwong said the ban "will drive former adult smokers who successfully switched to vapor products back to deadly cigarettes, deny the opportunity to switch for current adult smokers, and create a thriving black market instead of addressing the actual causes of underage access and use."

He said the company has already taken steps to prevent underage use and has proposals of its own to prevent sales to minors in the city.

Juul, in which Marlboro maker Altria Group has a 35% stake, has pulled popular flavors such as mango and cucumber from retail store shelves and shut down its social media channels on Instagram and Facebook.

FDA spokesman Michael Felberbaum declined to comment on the San Francisco ban, but said the agency is "committed to continuing to tackle the troubling epidemic of e-cigarette use among kids," including limiting access to flavored e-cigarettes and cracking down on companies and retailers who sell to minors.

E-cigarettes are generally thought to be safer than traditional cigarettes, which kill up to half of all lifetime users, according to the World Health Organization, but the long-term health effects of the nicotine devices remain largely unknown.

Bruce Colbert, who was at a tobacco retailer called the Smoke Shop in San Francisco, said the ordinance will harm people like him who are trying to stop smoking cigarettes.

"You can get high. You can get drunk, too. But you can't vape to cut back on your cigarettes," he said. "Either I go back to smoking cigarettes full time, or go across the Bay and go somewhere else. No big deal."

San Francisco city officials last year approved a ban on flavored tobacco and e-cigarette liquids, a move upheld by voters.

Juul last month filed paperwork in San Francisco for another ballot measure that experts say would make the flavor ban and Tuesday's e-cigarette ban unenforceable.

Juul spokesman Kwong disagreed that the ballot initiative would affect the flavor ban, but said it would supersede the e-cigarette ordinance approved on Tuesday.

The ballot measure, if approved, would put in place regulations favored by Juul, which it says would "ensure that underage access and use is addressed comprehensively but adults aren't driven back to cigarettes."

The e-cigarette ban will go into effect early next year, according to the city attorney's office, and will apply to both online and brick-and-mortar sales in San Francisco.

City officials also passed a separate ordinance prohibiting the manufacture and distribution of all tobacco products on city property.

(Reporting by Uday Sampath in Bengaluru, Chris Kirkham in Los Angeles and Jane Lanhee Lee in San Francisco; Editing by Arun Koyyur)

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