by Vicky Agnew, cancer.ucsf.edu

When San Francisco’s new flavored tobacco ordinance goes into effect next spring, it will be the strongest law in the country limiting the sale of flavored and menthol tobacco products. While other cities have passed laws reducing access to flavored vaping liquids and flavored tobacco, San Francisco is the first in the country to ban sales outright.

For all the controversy and tobacco-industry opposition laws like this invite, this particular ordinance was drafted, refined, and passed in less than six months. That’s because it had a committed sponsor in San Francisco Supervisor Malia Cohen and was supported by more than 15 years’ worth of research and national advocacy work by UCSF’s Valerie Yerger, ND, associate professor of health policy, who led the effort in getting the law passed.

“When we found our champion in Supervisor Cohen, we went hard and fast. I pushed for the most aggressive legislation possible,” Yerger said, adding Supervisor Cohen’s staffer Brittni Chicuata played a leading role, fueled by her background in public health and past experience in tobacco control advocacy.

“I anticipate a very ugly battle ahead, because the stakes are so high with how much money menthol products bring to the tobacco industry. But now we have a law that might make it easier for other cities to do the same. This issue is now on the radar of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Americans for Non-Smokers’ Rights, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, and the Truth Initiative.”

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