Juul Labs, the largest e-cigarette and vaping company in the country that controls over 70% of the U.S. market, has ended its $19 million dollar campaign in support of Proposition C, the ballot initiative to overturn San Francisco’s vaping ban.
Recent polls have shown that Proposition C, despite Juul giving millions for ads and awareness, has failed to get traction in the city. With a little over a month left until election day, polls have indicated that San Francisco residents remain unsupportive and would still vote ‘no’ by a double digit margin.
“We must strive to work with regulators, policymakers and other stakeholders, and earn the trust of the societies in which we operate,” stated Juul CEO and former Altria executive K.C Crosthwaite. “That includes inviting an open dialogue, listening to others and being responsive to their concerns.”
Despite Juul’s stance, the looming failure of the Proposition is a particular sting against them.
“Juul is based in San Francisco,” said Dr. Richard Nagy, a tobacco policy specialist. “It’s where they were created. It’s like if cigarettes were made illegal in Virginia or North Carolina, or if Coca-Cola was banned in Atlanta. It’s a huge blow, and knowing that well over half of the cities residents don’t want you or your product in town anymore, it has a huge demoralizing effect.”
Larry Tramutola, the campaign director for “No On Prop C,” also gave insight into how much Juul was giving despite imminent failure.
“The political reality is that Juul’s campaign already shattered spending records for a corporate-sponsored committee,” said Tramutola. “And that was 45 days before the election. Juul has outspent the “No on C” coalition by a ratio of 7.5-to-1. Juul’s ads are still on the air as of right now. And Juul has portrayed Prop C as a crackdown on e-cigarettes in San Francisco. When in fact it’s the exact opposite.”
In addition to the giant campaign for Proposition C in San Francisco, Juul has been steadily increasing political contributions and lobbying spending in California.
The decision also comes in the wake of recent vaping restrictions in Michigan, Massachusetts, and Los Angeles, as well as attempts at stricter state legislation in AB 1639. An ongoing federal review of the health risks of vaping, spurred by a sudden rise of illnesses and deaths related to vaping, is also threatening sales nationwide.
“They’re in a desperation mode now,” said Dr. Nagy. “They gave up on San Francisco and they’re moving on to other cities, primarily in California. A lot of cities have similar bills coming up, and after the failure of this Proposition, and the limiting one in LA, they don’t want to lose any more of their home state.”
“But after losing San Francisco for sure, their headspace right now is that they’re a government in exile, and they’ll do whatever they can to get their home back again. But how can you get it back if the vast majority of people don’t want you there?”
After Juul’s pullout, it is widely believed that Proposition C will not pass in November.