Philip Morris, Altria may re-unite; single firm would be market leader in nicotine delivery, and health advocates don’t like it

IQOS items sold by Philip Morris, soon to be by Altria Group

Health advocates and tobacco foes are objecting to a possible reunion of Altria Group and Philip Morris International, on grounds that it would make one company the market leader in smoking, “vaping” and tobacco heaters, a nicotine-delivery device coming soon to the U.S.

“It would be the worst nightmare for public health if they were to join forces,” Matt Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, told Bloomberg News Aug. 5, three weeks before the rumored merger talks were announced. “They won’t care what people use as long as they use one of them.” Myers said Sept. 4 that the reunion would give the new company more power to influence government policy, especially over electronic cigarettes, which are freshly controversial.

Cliff Douglas, vice president of tobacco control at the American Cancer Society, told Bloomberg, “We would strongly prefer these companies remain separate,” because in merger, “They would have every incentive to use their strengthened position to ensure that e-cigarettes are designed and marketed in a way that constitutes no real threat to cigarettes.”

“Philip Morris already owns the world’s most popular heated-tobacco product, IQOS, and enjoys almost 80 percent global market share in that category,” reports Bloomberg’s Corinne Gretler. “Philip Morris has invested billions of dollars in IQOS, and Altria has the right to start selling the device in the U.S. this year, and will start with a store in Atlanta next month.”
Altria, which the old Philip Morris Cos. spun off to give its American operations a non-tobacco brand, has invested about $13 billion in Juul Labs, makers of the most popular e-cigarettes. Juul “could speed up its expansion worldwide with Philip Morris’s help,” Gretler writes.
Philip Morris declined to comment, and Altria didn’t respond to a request for comment, Bloom berg reports.
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