JUUL is setting cash on fire to beat back a vaping ban in San Francisco.
The e-cigarette company dropped $7 million more into a pro-vaping ballot measure on San Francisco’s ballot on Monday, government ethics filings revealed late Tuesday night.
That brings JUUL’s spending up to a whopping $11 million to date, an outsized amount of money to spend on a San Francisco-specific ballot measure. That means more campaign mailers, more campaign text messages, and more swarms of sign-carrying pro-JUUL workers roaming city streets.
For context, a race for the Board of Supervisors this election has seen about $360,000 raised from each of the two major candidates, Supervisor Vallie Brown and challenger Dean Preston.
Conversely, big pocketed-donors have helped the No on C campaign, though not at the same levels as the Yes campaign. Billionaire Michael Bloomberg poured $1.6 million into the effort to defend the vape ban this month.
San Francisco passed its e-cigarette ban in June, which was authored by Supervisor Shamann Walton, who represents The City’s southeast neighborhoods. JUUL promptly floated a ballot measure to repeal that ban, Proposition C.
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.
“This is more of what we always knew, JUUL and big tobacco ignoring all of the negative health affects of their products and focusing on profits,” Walton told me. “They will go to any length to continue addict our young people for generations and kill people for money.”
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, according to CBS.
While this is by any standard a sea of money (and like SF Weekly wrote, shows JUUL spending like a “drunken sailor”), it still hasn’t reached the heights the soda industry spent to try and (unsuccessfully) beat back San Francisco’s sugary beverage tax in 2016.
In 2016, the soda industry spent $22.6 million in an unsuccessful bid to defeat the sugary beverage tax, the Examiner previously reported, while in 2018, R.J. Reynolds spent $12.8 million in a failed bid to reject a ban on flavored tobacco.
In July when Proposition C first qualified for the ballot, JUUL consultant Nate Allbee would not speculate if the tobacco industry would fund a record-breaking multi-million campaign.
“Can’t guess,” he said.
More details on JUUL’s spending will be revealed later this week, when another type of filing is due at the San Francisco Ethics Commission that will reveal how quickly the e-cigarette giant spent its money to boost its pro-vaping measure.
On Guard prints the news and raises hell each Tuesday. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Update 9/25: Additional filings from the No on C campaign were made available and this column was updated to reflect that funding.