Altria suspends U.S. marketing of e-cigarettes, vaping products

Sept. 25 (UPI) — Electronic cigarette maker Juul announced Wednesday it will suspend marketing products in the United States, and promised to comply with any proposed federal policy to remove flavored vaping products from the market.

The Altria Group, which owns Juul, announced the move and the removal of Kevin Burns as CEO. He will be replaced by former Altria executive K.C. Crosthwaite.

The company added that it will cease some lobbying efforts and comply with any federal policy that bans flavored e-cigarettes. Federal regulators are considering a ban, amid arguments that the flavored products appeal to minors and multiple deaths and illnesses related to e-cigarette use. Several states are moving to ban flavored e-cigarettes.

Altria’s announcement came just hours before House lawmakers were set to hear testimony on the safety of e-cigarettes from multiple witnesses, including acting FDA chief Norman Sharpless.

“I have long believed in a future where adult smokers overwhelmingly choose alternative products like Juul,” said Crosthwaite. “Unfortunately, today that future is at risk due to unacceptable levels of youth usage and eroding public confidence in our industry. Against that backdrop, we must strive to work with regulators, policymakers and other stakeholders, and earn the trust of the societies in which we operate.”

Altria also announced Wednesday merger talks with Philip Morris International have ended, as the two sides failed to reach an agreement.

The companies said last month they were considering an all-stock merger in which PMI would own 59 percent of the new company and Altria 41 percent. The deal would’ve required approval from federal regulators, board members and shareholders. Altria was formerly owned by PMI but broke away in 2008.

PMI said Wednesday it’s focused on its new tobacco heating system, known as IQOS.

“After much deliberation, the companies have agreed to focus on launching IQOS in the U.S. as part of their mutual interest to achieve a smoke-free future,” PMI CEO Andre Calantzopoulos said.

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