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San Francisco voters approve ban on flavored tobacco

San Francisco voters approve ban on flavored tobacco
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San Francisco voters on Tuesday approved a controversial ban on flavored tobacco products, which was passed by the board of supervisors last year. 

With all precincts reporting, 68 percent of San Francisco voters backed Measure E, which would ban the sale of flavored cigarettes, vaping products, cigars and smokeless tobacco.

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The San Francisco city supervisors approved the ordinance last year, but opponents got enough signatures to place the question on the ballot. 

The vote Tuesday puts to rest what has become a long and expensive battle, with tobacco company R.J. Reynolds contributing nearly $12 million against the measure. On the other side, supporters of the measure were funded almost entirely by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who contributed at least $1.8 million.

Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, called the vote "a truly historic victory for kids and health over the tobacco industry."
 
R.J. Reynolds did not issue a statement after the votes rolled in.
 
Both sides ran virtually nonstop radio blitzes in the final weeks before Election Day, and billboards line the highways into and out of the city.
 
Supporters of the prohibition said it would reduce the number of children who take up smoking in the first place. They cited a federal government study that showed that 81 percent of children who try tobacco products have started with a flavored product, and most young tobacco users say they have used a flavored product in the last month.

The ban comes as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) looks into new regulations on flavored tobacco, which some say entices kids to smoke or use tobacco products. 

The FDA has tried to balance that concern with research that shows some flavors can help adult smokers switch to less harmful tobacco products.

New York City, Chicago and Oakland also have restrictions on flavored tobacco. 

The San Francisco ban on flavored products will extend to menthol cigarettes, used disproportionately by younger smokers and especially by African-American kids. Anti-smoking activists accuse the tobacco industry of specifically targeting African-Americans with marketing campaigns for menthol cigarettes.
 
Tax hikes on tobacco products and raising the age limit on cigarette purchases have passed in several states and cities in recent months. Oklahoma legislators voted to raise cigarette taxes earlier this year, and five states — California, New Jersey, Oregon, Hawaii and Maine — have raised the tobacco-purchasing age to 21.
 
In January, San Antonio became the 285th city or county to raise the smoking age to 21.
 
--Updated at 1 p.m.