Altria shares fall after FDA's Gottlieb describes 'difficult' meeting on Juul

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Shares of Altria dropped 2.5 percent in a sudden move after Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said a meeting last week with the company and its e-cigarette investment Juul was “difficult.”

Gottlieb said he did not come away with any evidence that public health concerns drove Altria’s decision to invest in Juul, and instead says it looks like a business decision. Altria took a $12.8 billion stake in the e-cigarette maker late last year.

The commissioner reiterated that the FDA will consider pulling all pod-based e-cigarettes from the market if teen vaping trends don’t improve. The agency is also in the process of drafting guidance specifically defining these products, Gottlieb said at the Brookings Institution Tuesday.

In September, Gottlieb ordered the five largest e-cigarette manufacturers, including Juul and Altria, to submit plans outlining how they planned to curb youth use of e-cigarettes, also known as “vaping.”

Gottlieb, who announced earlier in March he would step down from the FDA, has accused Juul and Marlboro-maker Altria executives of reneging on promises they made to help combat teen vaping. Juul declined to comment on the FDA meeting but did say it happened last Wednesday.

Separately, city lawmakers in California also took aim at e-cigarettes Tuesday. San Francisco officials proposed legislation that would ban e-cigarettes sales in the city, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The two bills would stop companies like Juul from occupying city-owned property, according to the report.

Supervisor Shamann Walton, who authored the bills, told the Chronicle proposed legislation should be a “warning” and signal to Juul that “we don’t want them in our city.”

“I don’t eventually want to see them leave this city,” Walton said, according to the report. “I would have liked for them to have been gone yesterday.”

In a statement, Juul said it shares the city’s “concerns with youth usage of tobacco and vapor products, including our own.”

“That is why we have taken aggressive action nationwide, including stopping the sale of flavored products to retailers and supporting strong, restrictive category wide regulation to keep e-cigarettes out of the hands of youth,” the company said. “But this proposed legislation’s primary impact will be to limit adult smokers’ access to products that can help them switch away from combustible cigarettes.”

Juul encouraged lawmakers to “severely restrict youth access but do so in a way that preserves the opportunity to eliminate combustible cigarettes.”

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