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For once, I’m in full agreement with the mainstream media about the vaping crisis. Last Friday, big tobacco firm Altria Group launched its Iqos tobacco device to much interest. And the timing couldn’t be better, according to CNBC’s Angelica LaVito.

Talk about the understatement of the decade! For the last several weeks, the vaping industry, and in particular Altria has found itself under the gun. Although historically known for its cigarette products, Altria entered into the vaping arena, acquiring a 35% stake in Juul. Of course, Juul is the vaping company at the heart of the crisis.

According to the latest reports, the vaping crisis has taken 18 lives while sickening over 1,000 vape users. Even worse for advocates, the body count will likely move higher. Because health investigators now know what to look for, many are taking a retroactive approach.

Thus, it’s almost a guarantee that the death toll will increase. However, with Iqos, big tobacco can breathe a big sigh of relief.

Early during the vaping crisis, many fingers pointed at Altria. Featuring extremely high nicotine content, their discreet Juul devices wound up in the hands of children. In a short amount of time, kids were hooked on the potent mixture of tobacco and nicotine. Unfortunately, the situation has turned into an epidemic.

But with the Iqos launch, big tobacco has a blueprint to navigate around the subsequent callings for a vaping ban. This evil brilliance serves to consolidate demand for major corporations while killing small to mid-sized firms.

Here’s how the plan works:

 

Iqos the Ironic Savior for Altria Group

Unlike popular smoking devices, Iqos is a heat-not-burn device. As such, it is neither an analog cigarette nor is it an e-cigarette/vaporizer. Instead, Iqos heats tobacco material to a much “gentler” temperature, never burning or vaporizing the tobacco flavor.

Internationally, Iqos has soared in places like Japan and Russia. Users have the same experience of smoking regular cigarettes. However, because of the Iqos’ measured heating process, the tobacco inside the device never burns. Primarily, this prevents the release of harmful toxins and chemical byproducts.

Importantly, the Food and Drug Administration approved Iqos this past April – coincidentally and unbeknownst at the time, right when vape users began suffering acute lung illnesses. Thus, Altria can sell Iqos so long as it meets strict marketing and distribution guidelines.

Naturally, this is great news for big tobacco and their investors. However, it absolutely murders the many small businesses involved in the vaping industry. For instance, many leading vape retailers are running ridiculous discounts in a bid to survive.

Please hear me out: I’m not suggesting that Altria engineered a conspiracy to kill vaping in order to push Iqos. Nevertheless, I do think management has that “evil genius” touch. While investing in vaping via its stake in Juul, the cigarette maker already implemented a strategy to provide a viable alternative to an alternative.

This is thinking several moves ahead. And while many will still find the timing extremely fortuitous, I look at it this way: the damage has been done. Once again, the big dogs always win and the little guys must take a hike.

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