Which leads us to Altria’s announcement on October 25th that they would discontinue most of their flavored e-cigarettes and provide support for a 21-year-old age limit for tobacco and vaping products. Altria will only sell menthol, tobacco and mint flavored vaping products going forward. Flavors such as “Vineyard Blend” and “Mardi Gras” will be going away. These other flavors only contribute about 20% of Altria’s sales in the space so it is a small price to pay to get on the FDA’s good side. Altria steps out of the way in a space that they have limited impact while other companies, like JUUL, deal with the FDA on the teen vaping problem.
Meanwhile, the company can focus on gaining domestic approval for the poorly named “IQOS” system developed by Phillip Morris International, which Altria plans to distribute in the United States. IQOS is an alternative tobacco product that heats real tobacco without burning it, resulting in tobacco flavor and nicotine, but significantly reduces or eliminates carcinogens. This is a far more important product for the company that has shown success in overseas markets. Giving up flavored e-cigarettes seems unlikely to sway the FDA’s decision on approval for IQOS, but a little extra favor can’t hurt.