On Tuesday, June 18th, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to ban the sale of e-cigarettes in the city. This brings uncertainty for the industry moving forward and how this legislation could impact other U.S. cities. While the politicians and companies battle things out, consumers are flocking online.
JUUL, the largest e-cigarette provider, saw a 2.5x surge in website traffic from SF residents in the week ending June 22 compared to the week prior.
However, national traffic to the website wasn’t impacted when the news was announced. San Francisco visitors only account for 2.4% of visitors, so this ruling may not have a large impact on JUUL’s bottom line.
JUUL’s primary audience consists of young, high-earning individuals. Over 28% of JUUL consumers earn over $100K and are 25% more likely than the average online audience to be 18-24 years old. They also tend to be city-dwellers – 40% of JUUL visitors are from 10 of the largest DMAs in the country.
Since the ban is aimed at preventing youth from accessing e-cigarettes, the question that remains is will this measure be effective?
Lessons From The Flavor Ban
This isn’t the first battle JUUL and other providers have recently faced. When the FDA announced a flavor ban in November 2018, JUUL decided to stop selling four flavors in stores while still making mango, fruit, crème and cucumber pods available online. In lieu of having these flavors in store, more consumers appeared to have sought them out online.
Mango is by far JUUL’s most popular pod flavor. Searches for “mango juul pods” occurred 7.3x more frequently than any of the other banned flavors over the past 9 months.
Despite the popularity of mango pods, interest appears to have tapered off. Searches jumped 5x the week ending November 17 compared to the week prior and continued growing until a peak the week ending February 2. Since that peak, mango JUUL pod searches declined -41%.
Seeing a declining trend in JUUL’s most popular flavored pod six months after the FDA ban was announced questions whether or not a similar trend will occur now. Will searches for JUUL and other e-cigs from San Francisco residents decline significantly in the next six months?