Let’s Be Real, San Francisco Q&A

/Let’s Be Real, San Francisco Q&A

Over the last few months, Not Blowing Smoke has spearheaded the fight against the local flavor bans in the San Francisco Bay Area along with a wider coalition of consumer, industry and small business partners. We have continued working closely with our colleagues and are excited to jointly unveil the beginning of a new campaign. Following San Francisco’s unprecedented and unanimous approval of a total ban on flavored vapor products, an unprecedented response is required. We’re excited to announce our cooperation and joint leadership in an effort we think everyone can “Be Real” about.


Along with our coalition partners, we are dedicated to the ongoing battle to ensure vapor products remain accessible. Through these efforts, 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 switch away from cigarettes. Government prohibiting much safer alternatives through prohibition is not in the best interest of public health. Let’s Be Real – misleading smokers and the public about vapor products has never been acceptable, and now we’re ready to back that up with a direct challenge.

Because this is uncharted territory for many, we felt a few quick answers to key points would be helpful to understand the direction we’re now moving in:

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 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 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.


About the Author:

Stefan switched from smoking to vaping in 2012 and has been a vocal and active supporter and advocate for vapor products and tobacco harm reduction and is frequently seen testifying in front of state and local legislators and policy makers. Outside of Stefan’s legislative and PR efforts, including the creation of the #notblowingsmoke website and movement, he is mostly known for working out of the world’s most famous home office. Stefan has been featured in many articles and interviews on the subject of vapor products, electronic cigarettes, and harm reduction, including professor Stanton Glantz’ Tobacco Control blog at the University of California, San Francisco.

Leave A Comment