San Francisco's Top Economist Confirms Vape Ban Means More Smoking

The city is banning e-cigarettes while actual cigarettes remain legal.


San Francisco's chief economist has confirmed that the city's ban on e-cigarette sales will increase smoking as vapers switch to combustible cigarettes.

On June 25, San Francisco's Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to ban the sale of e-cigarettes while leaving traditional cigarettes to be sold as freely as before. Rarely does U.S. anti-vaping legislation make global headlines, but San Francisco's decision was so extreme it attracted international attention.

Amid an uproar from vapers and bewilderment among public health professionals, little attention was paid to a revealing May 15 San Francisco Chronicle interview on the subject with the city's chief economist, Ted Egan.

Egan's office is charged with analyzing the economic impact of legislation in San Francisco. The determinations are sent to the Board of Supervisors and are made public on the Controller's Office website. If it's found the legislation will have no impact on the local economy, no more analysis is conducted. Because Egan and his colleagues concluded that banning e-cigarette sales would have no material effect on the city's economy, no further study was required.

But Egan explained to the Chronicle why his office came to the conclusion it did. It found the ban wouldn't be bad for business because the money currently being spent on vaping products would still be spent in the city on other nicotine products, such as conventional cigarettes. When I asked Egan by email to confirm whether that quote was accurate, he responded: "The Chronicle article speaks for itself."

Egan's interview was given more than a month before the supervisors approved the ban. The mayor's office, the city attorney, and all the supervisors had ample time to read his remarks, ask why the prohibition of a popular product wouldn't affect the city's economy, and contemplate whether boosting cigarette sales is good for public health.

When asked if they were aware of Egan's assessment before the legislation was passed, all the supervisors' offices, as well as the mayor's office, declined to comment.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera's office, however, did respond. "The City Attorney, in partnership with Supervisor [Shamann] Walton, introduced the legislation two months before the comments in the Chronicle that you're referring to," John Coté, Herrera's communications director, said via email. "At no point was tax revenue a consideration. The U.S. Surgeon General has been unequivocal in warning that we are in the midst of a youth vaping epidemic. Children's health is more important than anyone's bottom line."

It's clear tax revenue wasn't a consideration, since the city does not expect to lose any—thanks to rising cigarette sales. So while e-cigarette manufacturers and San Francisco vape shops close, it's happy days for the makers of Marlboro and Camel. Coté's statement also leaves unanswered the question of whether Herrera knew the reason for Egan's assessment.

In a city notorious for its anti-tobacco laws, the ban on e-cigarettes is the first time San Francisco has ever given a competitive advantage to cigarettes over a safer nicotine alternative. In the name of promoting public health, San Francisco is actively pursuing a policy that its top economist acknowledges will increase smoking.

"With or without a report from an economist, anyone with a modicum of common sense should be able to recognize that banning the sale of America's most popular quit-smoking tool will inevitably lead to more cigarettes being smoked," says Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, a nonprofit advocacy group.

Before the legislation had even gone to a vote, longtime anti-smoking advocates were quick to point out its obvious flaws. "This has to be one of the most insane public health proposals I have ever seen," Michael Siegel, a physician and professor at Boston University's School of Public Health, wrote in March. "This legislation basically says: 'We care so much about the health of our kids that we can't allow e-cigarettes to remain on the market until they have a complete safety review. However, we are perfectly happy allowing cigarettes—which have had extensive safety reviews and been found to be killing hundreds of thousands of Americans each year—to remain on the market."

While the details of e-cigarette regulation are still subject to fierce debate, the scientific consensus on whether vaping is safer than smoking is clear. Authorities ranging from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to the Royal College of Physicians agree that smokers who switch to vaping are reducing the health risks they face. The former head of the Food and Drug Administration, Scott Gottlieb, has said more than once that if every adult smoker switched to vaping "it would provide a tremendous public health gain."

Even the San Francisco Chronicle, usually hostile to vaping, believes the city has gone too far. In a June 21 editorial, the Chronicle argued: "Manufacturers should be treated with skepticism about claims that vaping is a benign habit. What vaping doesn't deserve is a dose of shortsighted demonizing that does little to change the bigger picture of tobacco abuse and other health dangers the city is loath to confront."

The ban is slated to take effect in early 2020, but opposition is mounting fast. The Coalition for Reasonable Vaping Regulation, an anti-prohibition group backed by Juul (the leading U.S. e-cigarette company, which is based in San Francisco) has already gathered and submitted the necessary signatures to put the ban to a vote in November.

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  1. “San Francisco’s Top Economist Confirms Vape Ban Means More Smoking”

    An increase in the demand for substitutes would be a likely outcome of this ban–even if a “top economist” had claimed otherwise.

    1. Your selective quoting is intentionally misleading. He’s not “a” top economist, he’s SF’s best, which doesn’t necessarily make him very good.

      Or to put it another way, he’s (SF’s top) economist, not SF’s (top economist).

      1. You seem to have missed my point entirely. My point is that the authority of the economist in question is completely beside the point.

        Anyone–economist or otherwise–who predicts that restricting something is unlikely to increase the quantity of substitutes demanded should be doubted.

        The fact that it’s an economist, much less one with authori-tay, is inconsequential.

        Appeals to authority are wrong when they’re used to support something I oppose, and they’re wrong when they’re used to support something I support. Reality has a clear libertarian bias. We don’t need gimmicks. And rolling out an authority to tell us what anybody should be able to deduce for themselves is a gimmick.

        1. The fact that he is an economist is consequential.

          The basis of the fallacy is appeal outside of field of expertise.

          Smoking and nicotine addiction and use are not mere economic considerations.

  2. With or without a report from an economist, anyone with a modicum of common sense should be able to recognize that banning the sale of America’s most popular quit-smoking tool will inevitably lead to more cigarettes being smoked…

    Look, people shouldn’t be using tobacco in the first place so we’re not going to take its use into consideration. [stomps foot]

    1. The economist was tasked with assessing the economic impact, not whether this was a proper function of government to dictate the office holder’s moral judgments on the population.

      1. Because Egan and his colleagues concluded that banning e-cigarette sales would have no material effect on the city’s economy, no further study was required.

        Remember how the cigarette bans were sold to us on how much cigarette smoking contributed to health care costs?? Apparently, that was all BS. To say nothing of second hand smoke, and third- and fourth-hand smoke.

        Never mind. It’s for the children!!
        “At no point was tax revenue a consideration. The U.S. Surgeon General has been unequivocal in warning that we are in the midst of a youth vaping epidemic. Children’s health is more important than anyone’s bottom line.”

        1. I am just saying he answered the question he was tasked to answer. That it is not the most relevant question to rationalize such a law is not his problem.

  3. OT: Death of Anthropogenic Global Warming hypothesis

    This paper shows that low cloud cover correlates with global temperatures very closely. And this supports the Svensmark hypothesis, and refutes the CO2 effect and all the magnifications and machinations needed to make it work.

    Abstract. In this paper we will prove that GCM-models used in IPCC report AR5 fail to calculate the influences of the low cloud cover changes on the global temperature. That is why those models give a very small natural temperature change leaving a very large change for the contribution of the green house gases in the observed temperature. This is the reason why IPCC has to use a very large sensitivity to compensate a too small natural component. Further they have to leave out the strong negative feedback due to the clouds in order to magnify the sensitivity. In addition, this paper proves that the changes in the low cloud cover fraction practically control the global temperature.

    1. How long before the world deals with the cloud crisis?

    2. First off, that’s a preprint, not peer-reviewed. It’s essentially meaningless on its own.

      Second, I subscribe to Nature and have been astounded for years at the articles which show up every year or so, detailing improvements to climate models. Water vapor! Clouds! Mountains!

      The first few I saw just dumbfounded me. But after 2-3 of them, I got used to the idea that their models were crap and they were still pretending they had any use or validity. By that time it was also quite apparent that their models were empirical bullshit as well as theoretical.

      Anything which can’t predict the past sure isn’t going to do better predicting the future. The alarmists have had 30 years to get their shit together, their models still can’t predict the past, and anyone who pays any attention to them is pure charlatan.

      1. Exactly. The models that rely on CO2 sensitivity are all very poor at predicting recent T profiles and anything before about 1920. The Svensmark hypothesis is being supported by a growing body of data, and this report (when/if verified) is a very strong piece of evidence.

  4. If the gum became popular among kids, would…?

    1. No, because Big Pharma – they’d do exactly what they do with fruit flavored booze, which is not ban it.

  5. Banning legal products needs to be struck down in court. This is what the commerce clause was made to stop. And the drug war is illegal also.

    1. I was curious about the states authority in this. Can they do this because the FDA decided that despite it not containing or using any tobacco, it is now a tobacco product, therefore could be controlled as such? Or can a state or city just ban anything they want? Like could they ban smartphones because you could use it to buy tobacco online? I don’t really know the limits on state authority.

      1. States have general police power. They can ban about anything they want, provided it isn’t connected to something the Supreme Court has deemed a “fundamental right” and there is a rational relationship to some legitimate government interest.

        The root of the problem here is that the Supreme Court really doesn’t recognize the right to engage in economic activity or any real personal privacy beyond abortion and the search and seizure rules. If they did, this kind of thing would be subjected to a much higher level of scrutiny and struck down. And no one wants that.

        1. This seems to me why 2A cases are given a backseat. Cali’s roster isn’t seen as a ban that seizes property it just removes the ability to acquire an off roster firearm legally through a dealer unless you’re one of the state’s chosen few. Why the state can have a “more equal” class and that doesn’t violate equal protection I don’t know.

      2. There are no limits on state authority. Everyone does know that.

  6. I’m guessing the real issue is that e-cigs are cutting into their cigarette sin tax revenue.

    1. Does the city have such a tax?

  7. The moral panic over “youth vaping epidemic” overrides their moral panic over conventional tobacco products. The actual harm to children from vaping is…what, exactly?

    1. Well, nicotine isn’t great for you and all else being equal it’s probably preferable not to be addicted to nicotine. The vapor is a lot less damaging than smoke, but it still has some effect on lung function in my experience.

      But it’s a hell of a lot better than smoking.

  8. “Egan’s office is charged with analyzing the economic impact of legislation in San Francisco.”

    However, no one is charged with giving a damn about the results.

  9. “When I asked Egan by email to confirm whether that quote was accurate, he responded: “The Chronicle article speaks for itself.””

    Presaging Mueller’s House committee testimony, “The report speaks for itself”.

  10. This is genius. Reverse psychology! Ban the vaping and you’ll get more doing that instead of the legal (boring) cigarettes. See, the politicians really do care about the children.

  11. When asked if they were aware of Egan’s assessment before the legislation was passed, all the supervisors’ offices, as well as the mayor’s office, declined to comment.

    Jesus Christ, people, the shit is chess, not checkers. That’s the point. They want to drive people back to the heavily taxed product.

  12. The goal is not to make people stop smoking. The goal is to make the Board of Supervisors feel good about themselves. I mean, duh.

  13. Instead of “helicopter parenting”, this is helicopter governance, pure and simple. I’ve found that all of my liberal friends agree with the banning of vaping products. It’s shocking to see the level of ignorance on this subject, and sad to see people so casually give up their liberties for some supposed goal of protecting our kids.

    1. They have effectively demonized vaping as much as they have demonized plastic straws and with as good evidence, i.e. a grade school kid’s shoddy statistical analysis.

      1. Hey, we’re saving millions of plastic trees!

  14. Yeah-the SF economist knew exactly what the ban would do: bring in more tax revenue as vapors go back to smoking. Don’t think California has a tax on vapes, but maybe if they did, there would be no ban-it’s all about money.

    I hope voters repeal it but am not optimistic, SF voters seem every bit as retarded as the politicians they elect.

    1. And I’m sure plenty will just keep vaping and get their stuff by mail order or outside of the city. This is just a ban on retail sales, right?

      1. I believe it also applies to online orders (can’t be delivered to SF addresses)

  15. For the children? Do they even have children in SF. I recall reading several years ago that Nancy Pelosi has the distinction among all congresscritters of having by far the smallest percentage of children in her district.

  16. When, I wonder, will NANNY quit trying to dictate everything to everybody. Obviously, their efforts are futile.

  17. […] a piece in Reason notes, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors voted unanimously (!) on June 25 to completely ban […]

  18. […] a piece in Reason notes, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors voted unanimously (!) on June 25 to completely ban […]

  19. […] but harms it. Even San Francisco’s chief economist has stated the city’s ban will lead to more cigarette smoking. And while we know cigarettes kill hundreds of thousands of people each year, experts believe that […]

  20. […] a piece in Reason notes, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors voted unanimously (!) on June 25 to completely ban […]

  21. […] de répondre à ces deux questions, il convient de nous tourner vers la récente interview de Ted Egan, économiste en chef de la ville, et dirigeant d’un bureau dont la mission […]

  22. A sinister but more logical reason for the vape ban: As a moderate smoker, I paid about $1,250 a year in tobacco taxes. California’s population is about 40,000,000. If only 10% are smokers, that’s 4,000,000 people. If only 10% of those quit smoking to vape, that’s 400,000 people. Multiplied by $1,250, that’s a half billion dollar hole in California’s annual revenue stream. San Francisco’s share will amount to tens of millions. THE VAPE BAN IS NOT ABOUT PROTECTING CHILDREN. IT IS INTENDED TO DRIVE PEOPLE LIKE ME BACK TO CIGARETTES TO PLUG THAT HOLE IN THE BUDGET. MY GOVERNMENT IS ADDICTED TO TOBACCO TAXES.

  23. Makes perfect sense coming from that liberal shithole also known as SanFransicko.

  24. […] San Francisco’s Top Economist Confirms Vape Ban Means More Smoking […]

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