Philip Morris and Altria end merger talks; Juul CEO steps down

Moves come amid serious lung illness outbreak linked to vaping and increased regulatory scrutiny on e-cigarettes.

    Juul also announced on Wednesday that it would suspend all broadcast, print and digital advertising in the US [File: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters]
    Juul also announced on Wednesday that it would suspend all broadcast, print and digital advertising in the US [File: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters]

    The US tobacco giants Philip Morris and Altria are calling off merger talks and Juul's CEO is stepping down as safety concerns over e-cigarettes intensify.

    The makers of Marlboro cigarettes said last month that they were in discussions to become a single company, more than a decade after splitting in two as lawsuits mounted.

    It was hoped a merger would have helped the two companies confront declining cigarette sales and increasing regulatory scrutiny and take advantage of the growing e-cigarette market.

    Altria has exclusively sold Marlboro cigarettes and other tobacco brands in the United States, while Philip Morris has handled international sales.

    Philip Morris International Inc CEO Andre Calantzopoulos said on Wednesday that the companies would instead focus on launching IQOS in the US. 

    IQOS is a heat-not-burn cigarette alternative made by Philip Morris.

    "After much deliberation, the companies have agreed to focus on launching IQOS in the US as part of their mutual interest to achieve a smoke-free future," Calantzopoulos said.

    Altria Group Inc also announced that KC Crosthwaite will become Juul's new CEO, replacing Kevin Burns. Altria owns a 35 percent stake in Juul, an e-cigarette manufacturer.

    Chairman Howard Willard said in a statement that his company "could not reach an agreement" with Philip Morris over the merger.

    Juul also announced on Wednesday that it would suspend all broadcast, print and digital advertising in the US.

    Juul is facing a potential US ban on most of its products amid concerns over the effects of vaping on consumers' health.

    SOURCE: News agencies