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Juul Drops Support Of San Francisco Measure To Overturn E-Cigarette Ban

NOEL KING, HOST:

There's been a big political and commercial turnaround in San Francisco. Juul, the company that makes e-cigarettes, says it will drop its opposition to a citywide ban on selling its products. Scott Shafer with member station KQED has that story.

SCOTT SHAFER, BYLINE: It was a stunning about-face. After plowing $11 million into a ballot measure to overturn San Francisco's ban on e-cigarettes sales, the company announced it'll stop supporting Proposition C. In a statement, Juul's new CEO said the company is now committed to working with regulators and policymakers.

LARRY TRAMUTOLA: Proof is in the pudding. We've got to wait to see.

SHAFER: Political consultant Larry Tramutola is running the campaign to keep the ban in place.

TRAMUTOLA: We're looking at this with a grain of salt or maybe a spoonful of salt to see exactly what's going to transpire.

SHAFER: Tramutola wonders whether San Francisco-based Juul will actually pull its money out of the campaign. In the past few months, Juul has bombarded voters with messages supporting Prop C, vastly outspending opponents. In the past few weeks, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg funded ads to combat Juul's pro-vaping message.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: The Juul record - they took $12.8 billion from big tobacco. Juul marketed mango, mint and menthol flavors, addicting kids to nicotine.

SHAFER: Recently e-cigarettes and vaping have faced an avalanche of bad news - the emergence of a deadly lung condition linked to them, bipartisan calls to pull the product from the market and the FDA's warning to Juul about its marketing to minors. During lunch hour in San Francisco, smoker Ellen Mason said she tried to quit by vaping but didn't like it. But she doesn't support San Francisco's outright ban, either.

ELLEN MASON: I have a right to make a decision as an adult for myself, what I want to smoke or what I - or if I choose to smoke; not a regulatory body making that decision for me.

SHAFER: In the end, the public will decide. Proposition C remains on the ballot next month, and voters will choose whether the city's ban stays in place or goes up in smoke. For NPR News, I'm Scott Shafer in San Francisco.

(SOUNDBITE OF SKIT FEAT. KLIMEKS' "YUGEN") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Shafer

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