What's going on?
The US government announced plans to ban all sales of flavored e-cigarettes late on Wednesday, while big developments also emerged for companies dealing in opioids and alcohol.
What does this mean?
Following six deaths and 450 reported cases of vaping-related lung illnesses, the federal government now plans to follow Michigan’s lead in outlawing non-tobacco flavored smokes. The exact cause of the health problems remains uncertain, but with e-cigarettes crucial to the future of big tobacco companies – especially given their popularity among young customers – any restriction on their use could be damaging for the wellbeing of producers’ stock prices.
A more confident connection has been drawn between opioid-based painkillers and an addiction crisis that has led to the deaths of over 200,000 Americans. And on Thursday, drugmaker Purdue Pharma agreed provisional multi-billion-dollar agreements with around half of US states that further acknowledged its role – and would see it restructure via bankruptcy in order to avoid federal trial.
Why should I care?
For markets: It’s one rule for us…
Privately owned Purdue has argued that US authorities approved addiction warning labels on its OxyContin painkillers. But there hasn’t been any such approval for e-cigarettes, with Philip Morris’s iQOS merely “cleared for sale” and Juul – into which Altria invested $13 billion – slammed just this week for illegal marketing. The two devices’ tobacco-giant backers are still in talks to re-merge, and may now accelerate those plans in order to better deal with harsher regulation; the share prices of both are sitting near multi-year lows, while a major rival is cutting jobs.
The bigger picture: … and another for them.
While around 11 million Americans vape, it’s proportionally more popular in the UK, where over three million people regularly puff away at e-cigarettes – and health authorities continue to advocate their usefulness in quitting traditional smoking. Still, alcohol remains the world’s depressant of choice – and the world’s biggest brewer on Thursday refloated debt-draining plans to sell $5 billion of shares of its Asian subsidiary.