Sep 20, 2019 - Health

Altria's big bet on Juul is going horribly wrong

Data:; Chart: Axios Visuals

Altria's $12.8 billion investment for a 35% stake in Juul is at risk of becoming one of the worst corporate investments of all time.

Driving the news: So far, vaping is suspected or confirmed as the cause of death for 8 people and 530 cases of pulmonary illness across 38 states, the CDC said, with a federal official saying that a criminal probe has begun.

Sens. Mitt Romney and Jeff Merkley proposed a bill late Thursday that would:

  • Ban e-cigarette flavors other than tobacco.
  • Create new design standards for e-cigarettes.
  • Apply existing tobacco taxes to e-cigarettes.
  • Urge the Department of Health and Human Services to oversee a campaign about the health risks of e-cigarettes.
  • Make it more difficult to refill vape cartridges with home-made tobacco pods.

"With nearly a quarter of high school students vaping regularly, we must take decisive action to prevent a new generation from addiction and serious health risks," Romney said.

Between the lines: "Sometimes it's darkest before the light, but right now it looks like Altria got smoked," Axios' Dan Primack writes.

The big picture: Juul keeps getting hit left and right — particularly after the recent spate of vaping-related lung diseases. The company is also facing a possible congressional subpoena after failing to provide documents in July.

  • Last week, President Trump proposed banning all flavored vaping pods from the U.S. market, including mint and menthol.
  • Earlier this week, Juul products disappeared from Chinese e-commerce sites and Alibaba's, without explanation.
  • India banned e-cigarettes entirely.

In the market: Altria's stock has been falling for much of this year and has been on a clear downward path over the past 6 months.

  • The recent blowback against e-cigarettes has sent shares down another 8% in just the past week.

Go deeper: The global anti-vaping tipping point

Go deeper