Over the past year, Juul has retained hundreds of lobbyists to work in Washington and state capitals across the country, in an effort to fight statewide bans under consideration in California and elsewhere. It has also donated money to foundations that support African-American and Hispanic political causes, as well as to both political parties.
A ban would also raise the stakes on the proposed merger between Altria and Philip Morris International, analysts say. Separate since 2008 when Philip Morris was spun off from Altria to focus on markets overseas, the two companies said in late August that they were in talks to possibly merge again. By merging, Juul would have access to Philip Morris’s distribution network in Europe, where e-cigarette use in countries like France and the United Kingdom has soared.
If flavors were severely restricted in the United States, “Altria will really need the merger to happen with Philip Morris so it can distribute Juul to the developed markets, all of which have varying rules and regulations,” Mr. Nelson said. “The growth is in the developed markets, the U.S. and Europe, where you see people switching from being cigarette smokers to vapers.”
Juul is also setting its sights on emerging markets. This year, Juul said it would expand into India and set up an office in Singapore that would oversee it and other countries in the region, but the company has not officially done so, although it is easy to order Juul products online from much of India. Victoria Davis, a Juul spokeswoman, said its products are now available in 19 countries outside the United States.
Still, others argued a flavor ban would not be a death knell for Juul.
“This is likely to shrink the entire category, but Juul stands to gain a bigger share of a smaller market and benefit relative to their competitors,” said Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former F.D.A. commissioner who led a crackdown on the company beginning last fall. “If you wanted to target Juul specifically, you would have had to ban the entire category of pod-based products, the sort of products that kids are most widely abusing.”