Altria Shows the FDA How to Kill the Vaping Market

Altria announced today that it would pull its pod vapes MarkTen Elite and Apex from the market until the FDA approves them via a premarket tobacco application or decides that “the youth issue is otherwise addressed.” They will also pull all flavors of their cigalike products MarkTen and Green Smoke except tobacco, menthol, and mint.

The move comes in response to the FDA’s mid-September demand that JUUL Labs and four major tobacco companies that also sell vapor products deliver plans within 60 days to eliminate sales to teenagers. Altria also announced support for federal Tobacco 21 legislation, which JUUL Labs also supports. Currently, six states and hundreds of municipalities have laws restricting tobacco purchases to buyers 21 and older.

The target of the FDA’s demand was clearly JUUL, since the tobacco companies’ vapor product sales are a tiny part of their business. JUUL has captured more than 70 percent of the convenience store/gas station vaping market over the last year, and has significantly grown the size of that market. The JUUL is a superior pod-based vapor product to those made by the tobacco companies, but more importantly it is actually threatening their primary source of income: cigarettes.

The Altria move is designed to put pressure on JUUL to eliminate its flavored products too. The tobacco giant knows that the upstart vape is cutting into its cigarette sales and threatens to undermine future sales of its heat-not-burn tobacco product IQOS. Altria has applied to the FDA for marketing approval for IQOS. Because IQOS is classified as a cigarette, Altria will not be allowed to sell it in any flavor except tobacco and menthol. Flavored vapes like JUUL are a clear threat to IQOS and to Altria’s cigarette sales.


Altria Wants JUUL to Fail (and the FDA to Help)


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