San Francisco has long been a national leader in reducing smoking and exposure to smoking.1  In the last 25 years, San Franciscans have come to expect much improved indoor air quality protections in workplaces, restaurants and bars, at community events, and recreational areas.  Recently, e-cigarettes emerged in our community as a choice for some that may lead to involuntary exposure to indoor pollutants for others.2


In April 2014, San Francisco adopted a policy limiting e-cigarette use primarily to outdoor areas away from building entrances and windows.  The law also requires sellers of e-cigarettes to obtain a tobacco retailer license.  For years, all over San Francisco people have seen the familiar sign adhered to local businesses asking patrons to smoke at the curb or at least 15 feet away from entrances and windows where there is no curb.  This new San Francisco law, Health Code Section 19N, simply requires e-cigarette users (or “vapers”) to also use at the curb.  This law does not outlaw the use of e-cigarettes by adults, but does limit where they can be used.

San Francisco has a commitment to all community members and intends to allow vaping and smoking only in areas where non-users are not exposed to potential harms. There is limited regulation of e-cigarettes as far as production, advertising, and content, which means it is unclear what is being vaped and inhaled into the body or exhaled into the air.3  Some e-cigs have been shown to contain materials that can be harmful.4  They commonly contain propylene glycol as a propellant, which has been shown to irritate the throat and eyes.5 We ask that smokers and vapers alike be considerate of others and continue smoking and vaping at the curb.

San Francisco thinks it is the right time to inform our community about where the products can be used and for parents to know what their child may be exposed to.  Because of this, our Tobacco Free Coalition developed the #CurbIt campaign.  This campaign was funded by local tobacco industry settlement dollars to ensure that the San Francisco community is informed about the new law.

Youth use of e-cigarettes has recently increased at an alarming rate.6  The San Francisco Tobacco Free Project exists to reduce smoking and nicotine addiction.  The project aims to ensure that youth are not picking up nicotine products and that non-users are protected.  Those who wish to use e-cigarettes are free to do so within the confines of the law.  We do remind users that e-cigarettes are not FDA approved or regulated and the long-term health effects remain unknown.  San Francisco Department of Public Health offers free programs to assist with quitting smoking.

For more information about e-cigarettes, see our E-cigarette section of the website.


(Updated May 2015)


[1] Schripp, T., Markewitz, D., Uhde, E., & Salthammer, T. (2013). “Does e‐cigarette consumption cause passive vaping?” Indoor Air23(1), 25-31

[2] Hua, M.; Alfi, M.; Talbot, P.  Health-Related Effects Reporter by Electronic Cigarette Users in Online ForumsJournal of Medical Internet Research.  April 2013, 15(4). 

[3] Choi, H., Schmidbauer,N., Spengler,J., Bornehag, C. (2010). “Sources of Propylene Glycol and Glycol Ethers in Air at Home.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. Vol. 7, No. 12. Pp. 4213–4237

[4] Center for Disease Control (2014) “More than a quarter million youth who have never smoked a cigarette used e-cigarettes in 2013

[5]  Dwyer-Lindgren, L.; Mokdad, A.H.; Srebotnjak, T.; Flaxman, A.D.; Hansen, G.M.; and Murray, C.J.L.  Cigarette smoking prevalence in US counties: 1996-2012Population Health Metrics 2014, 12:5.

[6] Grana, R.; Benowitz, N.; and Glantz, S.  Background Paper on E-CigarettesPrepared for the World Health Organization: Tobacco Free Initiative.  December 2013.