Altria deal to take stake in Juul worries anti-tobacco groups

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By Maggie Fox

One of the biggest names in tobacco — Altria — is taking a large stake in Juul, the biggest name in vaping.

Altria announced on Thursday that it was taking a 35 percent stake in Juul and planned to aggressively help promote the e-cigarette brand.

Both companies said their aim was to create a giant to help smokers move to safer products. But anti-tobacco activists say they do not trust the deal, and at least one antitrust expert with experience fighting tobacco companies said the arrangement smelled funny to him.

“Big Tobacco just got bigger, and products like Juul have addicted a new generation putting nicotine in every classroom across America,” said Robin Koval, CEO & President of the Truth Initiative, set up to counter decades of tobacco industry marketing.

Altria is the parent company for Philip Morris USA, maker of the some of the biggest names in cigarettes, including Marlboro, L&M and Virginia Slims. Juul has enjoyed explosive growth and now dominates the e-cigarette market.

“The announcement that Altria is buying a 35 percent stake in Juul is a truly alarming development for public health and brings together the two companies that have been the most successful in marketing their highly addictive products to kids,” said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

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