The campaign for a ballot measure aimed at smoking San Francisco’s vape ban, Proposition C, is dead.
JUUL Labs new CEO K.C. Crosthwaite announced Monday that JUUL would cease funding the ballot measure.
The corporation had already pumped more than $11 million into the local campaign, an amount of money rivaled only by the soda industry’s spending against a sugary beverage tax and the tobacco industry’s funding against a menthol ban.
JUUL had another month to beat those spending records, leading to a flood of mailers for Proposition C.
Instead, without funding the campaign will be suspended, sources with knowledge confirmed to this columnist.
Notably, Prop. C will still be on the ballot, legally, it must stay — but the push to promote it is what will end, giving clear headway for the No on C campaign, which recently gained backing by billionaire Michael Bloomberg, to handily beat it.
San Francisco passed an e-cigarette ban in June, which was co-authored by City Attorney Dennis Herrera and Supervisor Shamann Walton, who represents The City’s southeast neighborhoods. JUUL promptly floated a ballot measure, Proposition C, to repeal that ban and overwrite it with its own set of regulations.
The e-cigarettes are primarily marketed to children, critics and Walton have claimed, leading to what the federal government has called an “epidemic” in vaping use by teenagers.
“Always fight for what’s right,” Walton told me, when reacting to Prop. C’s death.
Since then, deaths linked to vaping products have been reported nationally, leading to warnings from the federal Food and Drug Administration. Separately, the FDA has also launched an investigation into the legality of JUUL’s political ads to promote Prop. C, after critics claimed the company said vaping products are safer than cigarettes.
Prop. C also included light restrictions on the sale of JUUL to minors while still allowing their sale to adults in San Francisco. Supporters of the proposition, mainly backed by JUUL, claimed that vape pens helped people kick their cigarette habits.
Doctors and medical associations have called that claim dubious.
Walton said he was not surprised to see JUUL give up the fight, “in light of all the recent deaths, illnesses, and proof that JUUL was dishonest and their harm reduction mantra was just nonsense.”
Any remaining cash in Prop. C’s coffers will be returned to JUUL, sources said.
The vaping ban, while commonly referred to as a blanket ban, is actually a moratorium on e-cigarette sales until the industry volunteers for review and authorization by the federal Food and Drug Administration. After such a review, the ban would lift.
UPDATE 8:02 p.m.: After this story was published the Yes on C campaign officially announced its suspension.
The campaign’s full statement is below:
“We understand JUUL’s leadership has decided to cease support for the campaign as part of a larger review of the company’s policies. Based on that news, we have made the decision not to continue on with the campaign.
Yes on C would like to express our deep appreciation to the labor unions, hundreds of San Francisco corner stores, small business and thousands of residents who have used e-cigarettes to quit smoking that comprise the campaign. These folks have worked diligently in support of regulation to address the youth vaping crisis. We will be winding down all campaign activities over the course of this week.
The mission of our campaign has always put the health and well-being of all San Franciscan first. Our goal was to implement the nation’s strongest regulation, which is the best and proven means to address youth vaping while protecting adult choice for those who wish to quit smoking.”
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