The ban means only tobacco, mint and menthol flavors can be sold at these outlets, the agency official said, potentially dealing a major blow to Juul Labs Inc, the San Francisco-based market leader in vape devices.
The FDA also will introduce stricter age-verification requirements for online sales of e-cigarettes. The FDA’s planned restrictions, first reported by The Washington Post and confirmed to Reuters by the official, do not apply to vape shops or other specialty retail stores.
There has been mounting pressure for action after preliminary federal data showed teenage use had surged by more than 75 percent since last year, and the FDA has described it as an “epidemic”.
“E-cigs have become an almost ubiquitous ‒ and dangerous ‒ trend among teens,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in September. “The disturbing and accelerating trajectory of use we’re seeing in youth, and the resulting path to addiction, must end. It’s simply not tolerable.”
That growth has coincided with the rise of Juul, whose sales of vaping devices grew from 2.2 million in 2016 to 16.2 million devices last year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The agency threatened in September to ban Juul and four other leading e-cigarette products unless their makers took steps to prevent use by minors. The FDA gave Juul and four big tobacco companies 60 days to submit plans to curb underage use, a compliance period that is now ending.
The planned restrictions on flavors in convenience stores are likely to have the biggest impact on Juul, which sells nicotine liquid pods in flavors such as mango, mint, fruit and creme, previously called creme brulee.
The only other e-cigarette competitors sold at convenience stores are those marketed primarily by tobacco companies such as Altria Group Inc, British American Tobacco Plc, Imperial Brands Plc and Japan Tobacco Inc .
Those products, sold under the MarkTen, blu, Vuse and Logic brands, have lost market share as Juul has risen to prominence over the last year, growing from 13.6 percent of the U.S. e-cigarette market in early 2017 to nearly 75 percent now, according to a Wells Fargo analysis of Nielsen retail data.
E-cigarette products represent a small share of revenue for major tobacco companies, whereas Juul’s business is built entirely on the vaping devices. Revenue from e-cigarette devices made up less than 1 percent of British American Tobacco’s global revenue for the first six months of 2018, according to a company filing from July.
Altria last month announced it would stop selling its pod-based electronic cigarettes, generally smaller devices that use pre-filled nicotine liquid cartridges, in response to the FDA’s concerns about teen usage. The company also said it would restrict flavors for its other e-cigarette products to tobacco, menthol and mint.
Representatives from Altria, British American Tobacco, Imperial Brands and Japan Tobacco did not respond to requests for comment Thursday evening. A Juul spokeswoman declined to comment.
The companies have previously said their products are intended for adult use and that they work to ensure retailers comply with the law.
Juul has previously said the company wants to be “part of the solution in keeping e-cigarettes out of the hands of young people” but that “appropriate flavors play an important role in helping adult smokers switch.”
Meredith Berkman, a founder of Parents Against Vaping E-cigarettes, which seeks to curb underage use, said the agency’s move was a “good first step,” but added that “the final step should have happened yesterday.”
“Why not do away with flavors altogether, why not do away with online sales altogether?” she said.
E-cigarettes have been a divisive topic in the public health community. Some focus on the potential for the products to shift lifelong smokers onto less harmful nicotine products, while others fear they risk drawing a new generation into nicotine addiction.
Last year the FDA, under Gottlieb, extended until 2022 a deadline for e-cigarette companies to comply with new federal rules on marketing and public health.
Mother and daughter Helena Waszczyszyn and Anja Ramsden, from Nottingham, said the city’s Broadmarsh Centre was “empty and soulless”.
While it is not one of the 200 owned by private equity, the centre has seen shops close over the course of the past decade and is currently awaiting an £86m redevelopment.
Ms Ramsden said: “The shops have gone one by one – even when they were there they were a bit rubbish.
“It’s desolate in there. There’s a toilet, somewhere to sit and it’s out of the rain, that’s it.”
Jasmin Stephenson, from Eastwood in Nottinghamshire, had a similar view of the centre, saying: “I literally only go if I have to.”
“A few years ago a lot of businesses closed down and cleared out,” she said.
“They said they were going to renovate it but nothing has happened. It’s not a place I go to now.
“It’s a shame, as a lot of history was demolished to make way for it and it’s just a concrete block. That’s quite depressing.”
Mr Blackley, from the National Retail Research Knowledge Exchange Centre, said the growth of online retail in the UK – on sites such as Amazon – had been faster than in almost any other retail market in the world.
“If the major anchor store moves out, that has a halo effect on other stores in that centre. It’s a downward spiral and you can’t fill shopping centres with nail bars and vape shops.”
Steve Hall, from Essex, said: “I like shopping centres but they do seem to be dying and I wish some money was spent on making them good again.”
Mr Blackley, who is based at Nottingham Trent University’s Nottingham Business School, pointed to research in the Financial Times that suggested about £2.5bn worth of shopping centres and retail parks are up for sale in towns and cities across the UK.
Some of this marketing is unofficial and not in the public domain,” he said.
“It’s a trend that’s moving very quickly. You don’t necessarily want to be in the business of owning shopping centres at the moment.
“People are suggesting a number of leading national retailers are on the edge and may close and that would bring shopping centres down with them.
“The collapse of BHS, two years ago, left empty units in around 200 shopping centres and more than half of those large, empty units have not yet been filled.”
The crisis is affecting shopping centres across the UK, regardless of their location Daniel Mead from asset management firm APAM said.
All kinds of shopping centres, regardless of location or whether they are in small towns or major cities, could be affected,” he said.
“What they have in common is the way in which they are funded – the capital structure behind them. Obviously, if the centre is in a more affluent location, the problem could be easier to fix.”
The paper described Nicholsons as “one of the first significant collapses among dozens of UK retail property assets bought by opportunistic investors”.
Residents have spoken to the BBC about their concerns regarding a number of shopping centres up and down the country, where they feel empty units and an apparent lack of investment have led to stagnation.
Kettering’s Newlands Centre, which is backed by private equity, has seen the closure of a number of outlets. “It’s a sad scene at the moment,” said Paul Ansell, chair of the town’s civic society. “There is a cycle of shops opening and closing and I’m not sure what they can do to improve it.”
The Guildhall in Stafford, also backed by a private equity group, has seen many retailers vacate the centre in favour of the town’s new Riverside complex. “We are concerned it’s not as vibrant and active as it was,” said William Read, of the Stafford Historical and Civic Society. “I walked through there the other day and about 15-20% of the units are empty.” Both private equity groups have been contacted for a comment.
The Broadmarsh in Nottingham is owned by Intu – currently the subject of a takeover bid – which operates shopping centres across the UK. While it does not face the same issues as private-equity backed centres, Mr Blackley said it offers “about as bad a retail experience as you can get without the centre physically closing”. Nigel Wheatley, the centre’s general manager, said preparations were under way for its “exciting transformation”. Intu, which runs the centre, said it was currently undertaking “preparatory work” for a planned £86m redevelopment.
Executive director Simon Cooke said: “We think these shopping centres have been hit with the perfect storm of defaulting retail markets, weaker consumer spending, the impact of the internet and rising rents and rates, making it very difficult for retailers to trade and make a profit.
“We perceive many of these borrowers beginning to breach land covenants.”
Mr Cooke said most of the centres “in crisis” were the subject of deals that are due to be refinanced.
“They have to return money to their investors,” said Mr Cooke. “That’s not looking very likely. Frankly, the centres are either going to have to be sold at a lower price or have capital injected in order to regenerate and we don’t see banks having an appetite for that.”
“These are big tracts of land, occupying a central space in towns,” he said.
“You could see increasing vandalism, increasing crime, with a knock-on impact on infrastructure. I’m not suggesting every town is going to face these problems but we need to stop the rot.”
“Politicians need to come up with a plan to kick-start the regeneration of shopping centres,” he added.
A government spokesman said: “It’s true that high streets are changing, like they always have, and we’re committed to helping communities adapt.”
They said the government had put together an “expert panel” to “diagnose the issues affecting the high street and develop recommendations that will help them thrive”.
The future of shopping centres
The trend of closing shopping centres is fairly well-known in the US, where “dead mall” or “ghost mall” is the term that describes the decaying edifices left when mainstream department stores have moved out.
“Many of the challenges facing shopping centres in the UK are mirrored in the USA,” said Mr Blackley.
Centres that have prospered, he said, have been canny about expanding their offer.
“UK shopping centres must change if they are to survive,” according to Mr Blackley.
“They need to think like a hospitality brand. There has been a marked shift to the ‘experience economy’, and an increase in spend on food and beverage, which is now accounting for over 20% of total spend in some of the newest schemes.
“Some of the big centres in the UK are incorporating Sea Life Centres, ice rinks, indoor ski slopes. These are the shopping centres that, in my view, will survive.
“There’s no doubt that if shopping centres don’t deliver an experience consumers want, they will fall by the wayside.”
Some of the other visions for the future are similarly radical.
Mr Mead, head of shopping centre asset management at APAM, said community facilities such as libraries, medical centres and even schools could all sit within retail complexes.
“What people like about shopping centres is that they are centrally located with good transport links. The NHS has expressed interest in having a presence in some centres. With a chemist and other retailers already located there, it would be like a one-stop shop in the town centre.
“The problem is, these centres are run by investors who have a short-term approach and haven’t the skill-sets or investments to embrace the kind of changes required. There needs to be a joint venture created with local communities to fix the problem.”
In recent months, some local authorities have bought unloved shopping centres from investors keen to offload them.
“In February 2018, Canterbury City Council struck one of the largest shopping centre deals involving a council on record, taking full control of Whitefriars Shopping Centre in the city,” said Mr Blackley.
“The local authority bought out global fund manager TH Real Estate’s 50% stake for £75m.”
In Shrewsbury, Shropshire Council bought three centres – including one that was neglected – to “support economic growth and regeneration” in the town centre.
Whether such schemes will work depends on the passion and vision of the authorities concerned and whether they are able to secure private investment.
In Coventry, the city council’s plan to work with private investors to redevelop its post-war shopping precincts is seen as a good example of how to revive a shopping centre.
“But such investments by councils do risk public money,” said Mr Blackley.
“In too many cases, councils are trying to plug a gap and I don’t think that is sustainable long term.”
London’s High Streets were not considered in the report, as they have been ranked separately in the city.
Each business was scored on the basis of whether it encouraged healthy lifestyle choices, promoted social interaction and greater access to health services.
The UK’s 10 unhealthiest High Streets are:
The UK’s 10 healthiest High Streets are:
Brighton & Hove
The report paints a picture of the rapidly changing British High Street dominated by cafes and coffee shops, convenience stores, off-licences, vape shops and boarded-up premises.
Vape shops were counted as a “healthier” business, because of their role in discouraging smoking. However, the report added the “precise long-term effects of vaping are unknown”.
Shirley Cramer, RSPH chief executive said: “When our time and money are converted into a loss at the bookmaker, a tan from a sunbed, a high-cost loan or a bucket of fried chicken, the High Street is enabling and supporting poor health behaviours.
“Our Health on the High Street rankings illustrate how unhealthy businesses concentrate in areas which already experience higher levels of deprivation, obesity and lower life expectancy.
“Reshaping these High Streets to be more health-promoting could serve as a tool to help redress this imbalance.”
The rise in online retail is linked to the growing numbers of empty premises, which have increased from 7% in 2007 to 11% in 2017.
This year the High Street has seen several big name closures including Toys R Us and Maplin and, in this week’s Budget, Chancellor Philip Hammond cut the business rates for small retailers, and proposed a new tax on online retailers in an effort to boost physical shops.
However industry bodies said the changes didn’t go far enough.
The RSPH is calling for further measures including urging local authorities to make vacant properties publicly accessible for what is known as “meanwhile use” – pop-up art galleries or community centres.
The London rankings showed that the borough of Haringey boasted both the most unhealthy street, West Green Road in Seven Sisters, and the healthiest one, in Muswell Hill.
Santa Clarita, California (CNN)Donald Trump’s presidency has sparked revolt among large swaths of young Americans.
Typical midterm elections tend to draw out an older, whiter electorate and fewer single women than presidential years. But because of the deep disdain for Trump among the younger generation, this midterm cycle appears supercharged by younger voters who were stung by the outcome in 2016, and cognizant that their generation could have made the difference for Hillary Clinton.
Strong turnout within that age group could tip some of the closer House races into the Democratic column.
There’s “an embarrassment that comes with having not voted, or having not cared about voting in the past,” said Jessica Cohen, a 30-year-old product manager for a software company in California.
“(People) are realizing how many consequences there have been since 2016,” she added.
“That apathy has gotten us into some serious trouble.”
New polling this week confirms that the energy among youth voters on the ground isn’t a mirage.
A new poll from Harvard Institute of Politics this week found that 18-to-29-year-olds are far more likely to vote in Tuesday’s midterm election than they were in 2010 and 2014. Forty percent of those polled said they would “definitely vote” in the midterms.
President Trump’s job approval rating among those under 30 was 26%. If he runs for re-election in 2020, 59% of those polled said they “will never” vote for him.
In one striking finding, 65% of likely voters in the 18-to-29 age group said they were more fearful than hopeful about the future. Immigration and refugees topped the list of concerns, followed by jobs, President Trump (or leadership issues), and health care.
The energy among the younger generation has also resulted in a crop of candidates in their late 20s and early 30s.
One of those candidates is 31-year-old Katie Hill, the Democrat running in California’s 25th District against incumbent Republican Rep. Steve Knight. Clinton won this district in 2016.
Hill is one of the youngest Congressional candidates running this November, along with Abby Finkenauer in Iowa’s First District, and Lauren Underwood in Illinois’s 14th District.
Every weekend morning in recent months, dozens of young voters have shown up at Hill’s campaign headquarters in Santa Clarita. The office is wedged in a strip mall between a gun armory and a vape shop, underscoring the political diversity of this partly-suburban, partly-rural district north of Los Angeles.
The line of canvassers spilling out the door is decidedly youthful: Echo Park hipsters, Berniacs sporting 2020 T-Shirts, athletic young moms pushing jogging strollers, and large contingents of USC and UCLA students who are competing over who can make the most voter contacts in California’s competitive House districts.
Hill, a first-time candidate who filmed one of her campaign commercials while free-climbing a hundred-foot rock wall in nearby Texas Canyon, blends in easily in her purple campaign T-shirt and aqua skinny jeans.
But she steps up on the staircase to rally this fresh crop of doorknockers, warning that national Republican groups are pouring last-minute money into the race because it is polling within the margin of error.
“You can tell people when you’re knocking on those doors that this election could come down to a few hundred votes,” Hill tells the group as they ready the lists on their clipboards. “So their vote really will matter more in this election than probably any election that they’ll ever vote in – and that there’s no path to flipping the House and holding Donald Trump accountable or making any real progress across the country if we don’t flip this seat.”
At Hill’s headquarters, 30-year-old Caitlin Carlson said she was relieved that people in her generation finally “want to step up and do something.”
“We have been coasting a little bit. We just always kind of assumed that things would work out,” Carlson said. “Taking the House back is the first step to getting our country back on the rails. It just feels like we’re on this crazy train right now where logic and facts don’t matter.”
She views Tuesday’s election as “the first real big test for millennials to have faith that the system works.”
Nationally, Democrats have engaged in a forceful effort this fall to convince younger voters that flipping control of the US House could serve as a check on Trump administration policies that they don’t agree with.
They have enlisted many of the potential 2020 Democratic candidates — including Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and Kamala Harris — to deliver that message.
On Friday night in Oceanside, Sanders drew hundreds of cheering, foot-stomping young fans to a rally organized by California Young Democrats for down ballot candidates, including Mike Levin, the Democrat who is vying for the open seat of retiring Republican Congressman Darrell Issa in Orange and San Diego counties.
Levin, an environmental attorney, delivered an even more pointed message than Sanders — telling the crowd that the 2018 midterm election will be “won or lost” by people between the ages of 18 and 35.
“In 2016, 31 million voters in that age group, all very much eligible to vote, decided not to,” Levin told the rally crowd gathered in a gymnasium. “The result was Donald Trump — and Charlottesville, and a tax cut designed to benefit the wealthiest 1% of Americans, and Justice Neil Gorsuch, and Justice Brett Kavanaugh.” (Kavanaugh’s name alone drew the loudest boos of the night).
“You stay home on Election Day, and Republicans stay in charge,” Levin continued. “Your healthcare gets taken away, your student loans become more impossible to pay off, and places like Pulse (the nightclub in Orlando) and Parkland are joined by many more preventable tragedies.”
Resa Barillas, a 30-year-old in the crowd who came to see Sanders, said she had just sent in her ballot – the first she has ever cast in a midterm election.
“My friends are way more involved in voting now,” said Barillas, a single mom who tutors at MiraCosta College where the rally was being held. “Even in the midterms. I never really remember them posting about them, and now they’re on Facebook every day talking about it.”
When Barillas thinks about Democrats retaking the House, she said she hopes they will advance Sanders’ agenda for universal health care and free college tuition.
“That’s still a pipe dream, but it’s something that we’re moving towards,” Barillas said.
She also believes divided government could force more compromise and bring more unity to America. “Right now there’s so much polarization going on. I feel it; I feel it even at school…. Before people were always Democrats or Republicans or something else, but you didn’t have that hatred. Now it’s like you’re afraid to talk about politics, even with people in your own family.”
Perhaps no one has more faith in the power of the youth vote this cycle than Hill herself.
The former head of a non-profit that was focused on the region’s homeless crisis, Hill often reminds her audiences that she never expected to fill this role — but decided she needed to step up if her perspective was going to be heard.
“We have to turn out young people, and I believe that we can this time,” Hill said in an interview. “I had so many people tell me that’s a losing strategy, and I just don’t believe that’s true. This is a campaign, and this is a moment in history, when people are going to show up.”
A statement on the airline’s website reads: “We provide a smoke and vape-free environment inside the airport – at all times and for all substances – and have designated smoking and vaping areas outside the terminal building for public use. Airport users, as a condition of using the airport facilities, must obey smoke-free and vape-free signage at all times and for all substances.”
Passengers are also allowed to fly with up to 30 grams of the substance in their suitcase – however only on domestic flights within the country.
Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau said: “As long as the flight is domestic, people are allowed to bring up to a certain quantity for their personal use. However, I would remind people if they’re going to a country like the United States – the rules of that country are the rules that apply.”
The airport has put up signage around the airport warning people that “crossing international borders with cannabis is illegal.”
This latest phase of the investigation addresses more than 40 e-cigarette products and is part of the agency’s ongoing efforts to combat e-cigarette use among youth. It also comes less than two weeks after the agency conducted a surprise inspection of e-cigarette maker Juul’s corporate headquarters in San Francisco, seizing thousand of documents, many of which relate to its sales and marketing practices.
“Companies are on notice,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said in a statement Friday. “The FDA will not allow the proliferation of e-cigarettes or other tobacco products potentially being marketed illegally and outside of the agency’s compliance policy, and we will take swift action when companies are skirting the law.”
In September, Gottlieb called the increasing teen use of e-cigarettes “an epidemic,” adding that teen nicotine use is dangerous to young people’s health and brains.
Federal law prohibits the sale of e-cigarettes to people under the age of 18, but more than 2 million middle and high school students were current users of e-cigarettes in 2017, according to the FDA. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it’s the most common nicotine product used by middle and high schoolers.
Also last month, the FDA requested that five major e-cigarette manufacturers, including Juul, explain how they plan to combat the use of their products by minors. The agency said it was looking into steps to eliminate the sale of flavored products and unveiled a public education campaign about e-cigarettes.
The FDA said it’s considering civil and criminal avenues to enforce these regulations, including fines, seizures and injunctions, according to Friday’s announcement.
CNN reached out to some of the companies that received letters for comment but did not immediately receive a response.
“We’re going to address issues related to the access kids have to e-cigarettes, as well as the youth appeal of these products,” Gottlieb said Friday. “We know flavors are one of the principal drivers of the youth appeal of e-cigarettes and we’re looking carefully at this.
“No reasonable person wants to see these products reaching epidemic use among kids,” he said.
(CNN)By proposing to effectively ban the sales of most flavored vaping products in brick-and-mortar retail settings like gas stations and convenience stores, the Food and Drug Administration is essentially reaching back to the late 20th century. That’s when the federal government continually tightened regulations on the placement and content of traditional tobacco advertisements — mainly to reduce the exposure of children to such ads.
At the white-hot core of the e-cigarette controversy: Young people who vape are significantly more likely to start smoking traditional cigarettes in the future, according to several studies.
Many teens and adults use e-cigarettes as well as cigarettes. Except most young smokers aren’t using e-cigarettes to cut down on traditional smoking.
Our recent research found more young people reported using e-cigarettes than cigarettes in late adolescence. But by young adulthood, traditional cigarette smoking ruled. Those who escalated their e-cigarette use over time also showed subsequent increases in cigarette smoking, suggesting a progression toward more frequent vaping and smoking as they got older. A recent report also found that vaping among America’s teenagers has continued to rise even as their use of other substances like alcohol and opioids has decreased.
One sign of the pervasiveness of vaping in teen culture: Juul, the most popular e-cigarette brand in the US, is getting the verb treatment, a la “Google that.” “Juuling” is now a thing, as in “I got caught Juuling during class today, so I’m stuck in detention.”
While e-cigarettes may be a “safer” option for adult smokers, e-cigarettes are not safe for young people. Most e-cigarettes, especially the most popular brands, still contain nicotine, and nicotine is a highly addictive drug — especially for teens, who are likely to get hooked on the drug more easily than adults.
Although it may be illegal for those in high school or younger to buy e-cigarettes, that hasn’t stopped manufacturers from marketing them in a way that makes the products appealing to teens. The slickly packaged e-cigarettes also are heavily promoted via social media, a concern since research shows these strategies effectively pique kids’ interest.
So when the FDA announced new regulations last month, it took aim at flavored e-cigarettes, which come in a wide variety of sweet, kid-friendly flavors — like blue raspberry or cotton candy — that sound more like Slurpees than a delivery system for one of the world’s most addictive drugs.
The FDA’s rules changes will chip away at the e-cigarette’s candy-wrapper coating. Most retail locations that serve children and adults will only be allowed to sell e-cigarettes in flavors that mimic the taste of traditional cigarettes — tobacco, menthol and mint.
Juul and the vape debate
These moves are in keeping with recent studies showing that flavors play a significant role in adolescent vaping. Our recent research for the nonpartisan RAND Corporation also suggests that even seeing e-cigarettes in convenience stores — where they are often displayed next to the cigarettes behind the cashier — may lead more teens to try vaping.
Tobacco companies have a long history of aggressively targeting children and teens, trying to transform them into lifelong customers. Many of these firms have entered the e-cigarette business in recent years. But newer companies without historic ties to tobacco, such as Juul Labs, have also been criticized for using youth-friendly marketing campaigns to help popularize their products. A CNN investigation has revealed that Juul Labs was encouraging (and in some cases paying for) social media influencers to promote its product.
The federal government also has a history of reining in cigarette marketing, starting with a 1970 ban on advertising cigarettes on television and the radio.
The FDA considers the current use of e-cigarettes among teens an “epidemic,” and the numbers back that up. Teen smoking rates have dropped by more than 50% since 2011, but vaping among high school students increased by more than 600% during that same period.
Some may see aggressively cracking down on the sales of e-cigarettes — while traditional cigarettes remain omnipresent at gas stations and convenience stores — as a step in the wrong direction. It could make it harder for smokers to access vaping products and potentially incentivize smoking over vaping when smoking among adults has hit historic lows.
Vaping could be seen as the lesser of two evils. Some vaping advocates view e-cigarettes as a hero in the war against traditional smoking. Research has shown that adult smokers who switch to e-cigarettes can reduce their exposure to a wide range of carcinogens and other toxins. There is also a general consensus in the public health community that vaping is almost certainly a safer alternative to smoking cigarettes — for adults.
But vaping products seem to be gaining more traction among teens than adult smokers. Of the estimated nearly 20% of US adults who use any tobacco product, only 3% use e-cigarettes, while the vast majority of high school students who use tobacco products engage in vaping.
If the newly announced FDA regulations fail to help reverse the teen vaping trend, e-cigarette use among the young could end up leading to more nicotine use in the long-term and cast a dark shadow on the anti-smoking movement.
New York (CNN Business)Altria, America’s preeminent cigarette company, is looking beyond tobacco for growth.
The investment would pair a company that controls half of the American tobacco market with startup Juul — which sells more than 70% of the cartridge-based e-cigarettes in the United States.
The marriage would allow Altria to broaden its customer base. Altria is a US-only business, spinning off from Philip Morris International in 2008. Juul sells its e-cigarettes in Canada, Israel, Russia and the United Kingdom, in addition to the United States.
It could give Altria, a leader in aUS cigarette business in slow decline, a window into the rapidly growing market of e-cigarettes. Meanwhile, the dealcould give Juul access to Altria’s massive distribution network.
Yet the investment, if completed, would be a risky one.
Juul has come under intense regulatory scrutiny after teenagers became addicted to its products.
Federal law prohibits the sale of e-cigarettes to people under the age of 18, yet one in five high school students uses e-cigarettes, according to the surgeon general. Teen e-cigarette usage is soaring: The percentage of high-school-age children who say they used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days rose by more than 75% between 2017 and 2018, according to the National Youth Tobacco Survey.
In September, the Food and Drug Administration started a campaign to prevent kids from using e-cigarettes. It called teen use of e-cigarettes “an epidemic,” claiming that nicotine use is hazardous to young adults’ health. The FDA conducted a surprise inspection of Juul’s corporate headquarters in San Francisco a month later, seizing thousands of documents, many of which relate to the company’s sales and marketing practices.
The FDA was expected to ban e-cigarettes last month, but it instead ruled that e-cigarettes could be sold only in parts of stores that are closed-off to teenagers.
Juul claims its products are for people who want a tobacco-free source of nicotine to help them quit smoking.
“We can’t restate this enough,” said Juul CEO Kevin Burns in a July letter to customers. “As an independent company that is not big tobacco, we are driven by our mission and commitment to adult smokers.”
Juul could not be reached for comment, and a spokesman for Altria declined to comment.
Altria also faces regulation of some of its most popular products. The FDA last month sought a ban of mentholated cigarettes.
Altria also wants to bring its IQOS tobacco-heating device to market, but it has not yet received government approval. The company has not shown that IQOS is a safer alternative to cigarettes, the FDA said earlier this year.
The company’s investment in Cronos, much smaller than its reported interest in Juul, is potentially its safest bet. Marijuana has gained legal status in Canada and a growing number of American states — although it remains a controlled substance on the federal level.
“There are I believe 60,000 deaths a year from lung cancer. I cannot remember the starting of any pressure group formed of the medical community for compulsion on this matter.
“Regarding alcohol, there is possible legislation to limit the amount and conditions in which alcohol is taken which may reduce the terrible tragedy of bodies broken and constitutions wrecked by alcohol. I do not believe that the medical people have lobbied for compulsion there.
“Therefore, if we are to have what I term the ‘nanny state’… why do not the medical lobby go for compulsory wearing of life jackets for people who swim, sail and row in boats?”
How times have changed.
Restrictions on the sale and advertising of cigarettes, like the compulsory wearing of seatbelts, have long since become law, spurred on by the medical lobby that was invisible to Lord Balfour, with curbs on alcohol consumption, through minimum unit pricing, coming down the track.
In some cases, these laws were passed by Conservative governments.
Swimmers have yet to be made to wear life jackets – but the idea that the state can, and should, use its power to force people to make better choices about their health and safety is accepted as a good thing across the political spectrum.
Supporters can point to the many lives that have been saved and how the public has, by and large, accepted curbs on what now seem like reckless, or downright dangerous, behaviours.
Indeed, health campaigners and opposition parties argue that Theresa May’s government – for all its commitment to cutting smoking rates and tackling childhood obesity – remains far too fond of industry self-regulation and not willing to take the tough legislative action needed to make a real difference.
But are there signs that the tide is turning on the Conservative benches? Is the ghost of Lord Balfour, who died in 1988, aged 90, haunting the corridors of power?
In the run-up to the Conservative Party conference, former minister and leading Brexiteer Priti Patel criticised the prime minister for leading a “nanny state government”, which she claimed was more interested in banning things than implementing Conservative policies.
Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss – who has criticised the restaurant menu plan and called for motorway speed limits to be increased to 80mph – grabbed headlines in June when she took a swipe at cabinet colleague Michael Gove’s proposed ban on wood burning stoves.
It is not the government’s job “to tell us what our tastes should be”, she said in a speech.
“Too often we’re hearing about not drinking too much, eating too many doughnuts or enjoying the warm glow of our wood-burning Goves – I mean stoves.
“I can see their point: there’s enough hot air and smoke at the environment department already.”
Christopher Snowdon, of the Institute for Economic Affairs, a free market think tank which is reported to have received funding from the tobacco industry, said other Conservative MPs were similarly uneasy about what they see as the bossy tone of government initiatives, although few have been willing to go on the record about it.
Mr Snowdon is a longstanding campaigner against the “nanny state”. He even compiles an annual league table of the most “nannying” countries – which last year saw the UK coming second behind Finland as the “worst country in which to eat, drink, smoke and vape in the EU”.
His ultra-libertarian views – he says he would have no problem with legalising all drugs, for example – puts him at odds with Theresa May and the rest of the Tory leadership, as well as mainstream opinion in Labour and just about every other party at Westminster.
He argues that they have all misread the mood of the public, who, he claims, are growing increasingly “fed up” with being told how to live their lives.
“I think there is a public backlash but it may not always be reflected in the media,” he says.
It is mostly the poor and marginalised – people who don’t always have a voice at Westminster – who bear the brunt of increased taxes on food, alcohol and tobacco, he argues.
Banning things is “very easy and cheap to do”, he says, and it makes an immediate impact on people’s lives – an irresistible combination for politicians looking to make a name for themselves.
Dolly Theis, a Conservative candidate at last year’s general election, and a policy expert in public health, says that far from restricting freedom of choice, the government’s childhood obesity strategy, which aims to ban the sale of fatty and sugary foods at supermarket checkouts among other things, is about increasing choice.
Few people decide “I want to be obese” but their choices can be limited by their economic circumstances, she says.
“By the age of five, children in poverty are twice as likely to be obese as their least deprived peers, and by the age of 11 they are three times as likely,” she wrote in a paper for the Bright Blue think tank.
“They are also more likely to live in an area with more takeaway and fast food outlets; more likely to live in poor, unsuitable or overcrowded housing; and more likely to experience a combination of family breakdown, stress, mental health issues and financial problems – all factors which can impair parents’ ability to make rational and compassionate decisions.”
The childhood obesity strategy, she claims, marks a significant shift “away from viewing childhood obesity as an issue of poor personal choice, towards understanding that our environment, socioeconomic circumstances, education and the influence of the food and drinks industry, dictate the choices we are presented with”.
Cutting obesity will also save the NHS millions in the longer term, reducing the need to increase taxes – another key Conservative priority, she adds.
But cabinet tensions over how far the government should go in its efforts to improve public health, and what tone it should adopt, suggests the debate in the party is far from settled.