San Francisco decided recently to ban the sale of flavoured tobacco, and by association e-liquid flavouring. The law was supposed to come into force last April. The project however immediately caused a call to arms for small businesses, but also involving industry heavy-weight R.J. Reynolds Tobacco. Purchased last year by British American Tobacco for almost 50 Billion dollars, the Reynolds risks losing one of their most profitable product lines.
According to local elected officials, sweet or sour flavours that can help cover up the taste of nicotine encourage younger people to smoke. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co was quick to counter-attack, investing millions of dollars in a major advertising campaign. Their goal is to influence SF representatives to reject this proposal.
A financial battle between the pro and con side for “flavoured tobacco”
Pamela Ling, professor of medicine at the University of California in San Francisco, recently headed a study on the behaviour of younger people when it comes to addiction. Results indicate that tobacco consumption is falling in this demographic, however that teens are increasingly likely to try out electronic cigarettes. New e-liquid flavours are, in her opinion, a major selling point for these student populations.
Those on the con side, who want the ban to go through, managed to collect 2.8 million dollars via a particularly generous personal donation by former mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg. The billionaire was the driving force behind the creation of STOP, an association with a 20 million dollar budget to fight the spread of tobacco throughout the country.
On the other side, Reynolds Tobacco did not hesitate to take 12 million dollars from company coffers to finance the “No on Proposition E” campaign. The company’s message is clear: banning flavoured tobacco will inevitably lead to the development of a black market, which could have dire consequences for small businesses. Indeed, many small businesses rely on cigarettes and related products to keep afloat. To be sure the campaign reached a large population, the campaign ads were aired in English, Spanish, and even Mandarin. Reynolds Tobacco is obviously worried that the ban on flavoured tobacco would spread to other states across the country.