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Friday, December 2, 2022

Big Tobacco ushers in a healthier world while simultaneously fighting against its arrival

Public health activists have been working for decades to reduce the power of Big Tobacco by passing legislation that discourages the use of tobacco products, such as cigarettes. However, these contentious legal and political fights were simply a warm-up for the showdown that is about to take place, which has the potential to decide the future of smoking as well as whether or not these businesses will be able to adapt or fail.

Officials in charge of public health in the United States have begun an assault on cigarettes that is by far the most forceful one yet: twin government plans would outlaw menthol-flavored cigarettes and would restrict nicotine levels in ordinary cigarettes to make them less addictive. At the same time, the government is gradually coming around to the idea of vaping as a viable option by allowing the sale of some electronic cigarettes. These devices may provide smokers their nicotine fix while avoiding the majority of the toxins found in traditional cigarettes.

And Big Tobacco is not just battling it out at the federal level; they are also fighting it out at the state and municipal levels. For instance, the business has spent a significant amount of money in California to prevent a rule from going into effect in 2020 that would prohibit the sale of flavoured tobacco products such as those containing menthol. The implementation of the rule is contingent on a majority of state voters approving a ballot initiative endorsing the law on November 8. The industry has spent $22 million to attempt to convince voters to reject the measure and the taste ban. If successful, the law will go into effect.

The California Coalition for Fairness, an organisation that is funded by the tobacco industry and was the driving force behind the successful campaign to get the referendum on the ballot, argues that the flavour ban “benefits the wealthy and special interests while costing jobs and cutting funding for education and health care.”

In the document that Reynolds filed in opposition to the menthol ban, the company said that, in general, it “completely supports F.D.A.’s aim of eliminating tobacco-related illness.” On the other hand, it was said that “menthol users would simply switch to non-menthol cigarettes or resort to riskier choices such as illegal market smokes.” The corporation did not want to provide any more remark beyond what was included in the filing.

The tobacco industry has gained support from a wide variety of friends in order to continue their campaign against the menthol ban. There are people who have financial interests in the result, such as the National Association of Convenience Stores and the New York City Newsstand Operators Association. Both of these groups have said that they stand to lose billions of dollars in yearly sales if the judgement goes against them.

In addition, the largest tobacco corporations are competing with one another for a larger share of the emerging market. The Food and Drug Administration gave its blessing to various Vuse products made by Reynolds in the previous year. However, the agency has not yet made a decision on the sale of Vuse Alto, the company’s most successful product to date. Vuse Alto was responsible for 95 percent of the company’s e-cigarette sales in 2017 and overtook Juul as the best-selling vaping product during that time period. In recent years, Vuse Alto has gained popularity because to its compact and streamlined form, longer battery life, and the fact that it was not entangled in the same controversy as Juul about the use of its product by teenagers.

For a long time, it seemed as if Altria’s strategy was revolving around its partnership with Juul Labs. In 2018, Altria shelled out 12.8 billion dollars in order to acquire a 35% share in Juul. But even before Juul’s initial bid in June for authorization to keep selling certain products on the U.S. market was denied, the company’s products had already been severely restricted due to public pressure to remove flavoured e-pods from the market due to concerns regarding their appeal to teenagers. This was done out of concerns for the dangers of the products’ ability to attract young people. This summer, the Food and Drug Administration changed its mind and decided to allow Juul’s request for an extra examination of its application to keep some tobacco and menthol products on the market.

Another kind of product that may be used as a replacement for cigarettes is something called “heat-not-burn tobacco sticks.” In October, Altria made the announcement that it had sold the rights to market IQOS, a heat-not-burn tobacco stick, to Philip Morris International for $2.7 billion. IQOS is a heat-not-burn product.

Jonathan James
I serve as a Senior Executive Journalist of The National Era
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