Georgetown tobacco control expert outlines motivations of Altria-Juul deal

September 04, 2019

WASHINGTON -- The pending deal for Altria to purchase 35% of Juul Labs should serve as a "wake-up call" for the careful monitoring of competition in the nicotine delivery market, and for evaluating how regulations and policies impact cigarette and non-cigarette firms selling alternative nicotine delivery products, says a Georgetown University professor. Juul Labs, the largest US seller of vaping products, would merge with Altria, seller of Marlboro cigarettes and a leading seller of smokeless tobacco.

Writing in BMJ (Open Access), David Levy, PhD, professor of oncology at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, and colleagues explore the motivations of Altria in buying Juul Labs and the motivations as to why Juul would accept the offer.

"While Juul Labs has clear motivations for the deal, Altria's motivations to pay $12.8 billion for a non-controlling stake are less clear," write Levy and his colleagues.

The researchers also explore the future impact of the deal on the US cigarette and alternative nicotine delivery markets and on public health.

"From a public health perspective, the impact of this deal will depend on whether it leads to increased cigarette use, less cigarette use, or an increase of e-cigarette use instead of cigarettes," explains Levy.
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In addition to Levy, authors include: David Sweanor (University of Ottawa), Luz Maria Sanchez-Romero (Georgetown Lombardi), Richard O'Connor (Roswell Park Cancer Institute), Maciej Lukasz Goniewicz (Roswell Park Cancer Institute), and Ron Borland (University of Melbourne). The authors received funding from the National Cancer Institute (P01CA200512 and U54CA229974). Goniewicz reports receiving a research grant and serving as an advisory board member to pharmaceutical companies that manufacture smoking cessation medications. The other authors report no potential conflicts.

Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center is designated by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) as a comprehensive cancer center. A part of Georgetown University Medical Center, Georgetown Lombardi is the only comprehensive cancer center in the Washington D.C. area. It serves as the research engine for MedStar Health, Georgetown University's clinical partner. Georgetown Lombardi is also an NCI recognized consortium with John Theurer Cancer Center/Hackensack Meridian Health in Bergen County, New Jersey. The consortium reflects an integrated cancer research enterprise with scientists and physician-researchers from both locations. Georgetown Lombardi seeks to improve the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of cancer through innovative basic, translational and clinical research, patient care, community education and outreach to service communities throughout the Washington region, while its consortium member John Theurer Cancer Center/Hackensack Meridian Health serves communities in northern New Jersey. Georgetown Lombardi is a member of the NCI Community Oncology Research Program (UG1CA239758). Georgetown Lombardi is supported in part by a National Cancer Institute Cancer Center Support Grant (P30CA051008). Connect with Georgetown Lombardi on Facebook (Facebook.com/GeorgetownLombardi) and Twitter (@LombardiCancer).

Georgetown University Medical Center

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