Libertarians took up the protest too, saying that the government was overreaching.
Small business owners also fought back, saying that the ban would sharply reduce their profits.
“Anchor products allow us to stay competitive to big-box stores, and we will lose regular customers that keep our doors open,” said Miriam Zouzounis, a board member of the Arab American Grocers Association, which represents over 400 businesses in San Francisco. She said the law would disproportionately affect Arab, Sikh and Asian store owners.
Juul Labs, maker of the top-selling vaping devices, which is based in San Francisco, did not have a prominent voice in the debate. The company did not respond to requests for comment.
But a coalition of groups, including the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association and Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund, conducted a vigorous drive to uphold the ban. Their war chest was significantly smaller — $2.3 million, including a $1.8 million personal contribution from Michael R. Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City.
A leading voice behind the ban was the African-American Tobacco Control Leadership Council, a local group that has sought to limit sales of flavored tobacco near schools in numerous jurisdictions. Its attention to menthol in particular was in response to the booming sales of Newport among minorities, who have seen disproportionately high mortality rates related to smoking.
“The ban on menthol cigarettes is a monumental step forward for health equity and social justice for communities of color,” said Dr. Phil Gardiner, a co-chairman of the council.
The ban is expected to take effect within days after the vote is officially certified.
Shelia Kaplan contributed reporting.