Altria quits Juul, tobacco giant lays out new tobacco remains resolute


Even as Altria announced the JUUL sale on Friday, the company was in touch with the third-largest e-cigarette company in the United States. In the context of the global ban on smoking, the traditional cigarette giants are trying to make the transition to new tobacco as much as possible. One or two failures will not stop the momentum.

Altria is spending $2.75 billion to buy Njoy, an e-cigarette company that, unlike Juul, has FDA approval for some of its products. Nielsen’s U.S. e-cigarette market share data for January showed Vuse’s share rising to 41.1 percent from 40.7 percent in the previous report, while Juul’s share fell to 26.7 percent from 27 percent. Njoy is a significantly smaller market, with a 2.7% share last year.

Altria’s decision to forgo top-ranked Juul in favor of smaller Njoy may have been a forced choice. The former was overwhelmed by regulation, and Altria had to hope to partner with the cleaner Njoy to keep dominating the vaping circuit.

In return for its equity, Altria got Juul’s heat-not-burn patents, which, although Juul has never made a heat-not-burn product, are still valuable, in Altria’s view, because the easiest route to traditional tobacco is the heat-not-burn route. Last year, Altria ended a non-compete agreement with Juul and entered into a joint venture with Japan Tobacco focused on heated tobacco products.

Compared with atomized e-cigarettes, the heating and non-combustion circuit is more suitable for traditional tobacco giants. These giants themselves are tobacco producers, but they inherit the regulatory policies of tobacco and continue to pay taxes to the government. The policy aspect is relatively stable, but the harm reduction aspect has improved qualitatively.

Global cigarette giants, including Fermo International, British American Tobacco and Japan Tobacco, are engaged in heating and non-combustion business, among which Fermo International’s iQOS series occupies an absolute dominant position, with a heating bar market share of 10.8%.

At the heart of the backlash is global hostility to traditional tobacco. For example, many countries have announced a ban on smoking in public places, including China. At its previous 65th session, the WHO Regional Committee for Europe urged European governments to drastically reduce tobacco use by 2025. The Finnish government plans to ban smoking by 2040 in a bid to improve the country’s health. New Zealand has announced that by 2027, people aged 14 and under will never be allowed to buy cigarettes. Quite a few countries have introduced similar anti-smoking targets.

In 2021, CEO Orzak said the company would stop selling cigarettes in the UK within 10 years. The reason behind this is that Britain has been encouraging smokers to adopt the new tobacco for national health reasons.

Tobacco sales in the world’s major developed countries are gradually declining year by year. New tobacco is taking the place of traditional cigarettes on a large scale in the world. The reason behind this is that, apart from anti-smoking policies, the dangers of tobacco are widely known, and new types of tobacco are gaining consumer trust and replacing the former market. This is also the reason why China’s e-cigarette exports have been booming year after year, as Shenzhen, China, has grown into a contract manufacturing base for global e-cigarette brands.

At the time of the transition of the old and the new, it is only right that the old industries are abandoned by the market and the corresponding valuations of the companies fall. However, in recent years, the market value of these tobacco giants has risen steadily. The main reason is that they also occupy a favorable position on the new track, the sales of new tobacco account for an increasing proportion, and the market believes that the life cycle is extended and is willing to give higher valuations. Big Tobacco will do whatever it takes to keep its lifeline alive.


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