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Fears of menthol ban cost BAT a mint

15 November 2018

Do you smoke? This is flavored cigarettes?

An Altria spokesman said Monday it was premature to comment absent an FDA announcement.

British American Tobacco shares were down almost 3 percent at $36.95 at the time of publication Tuesday, while Altria was down 1.4 percent at $60.34 and Imperial Tobacco was down 1.89 percent at $33.96.

British American Tobacco and Imperial Brands saw £7bn wiped from their stock market value as USA regulators prepare to crack down on the sale of flavoured e-cigarettes and menthol cigarettes. Menthol products sold in the US account for about a quarter of the company's earnings.

Menthol cigarettes account for about a quarter of BAT's U.S. cigarette sales, making it a bigger casualty of the potential ban than its competitors Altria and Imperial Brands.

The Wall Street Journal followed up with its own report Friday that said the FDA could propose a ban on menthol cigarettes.

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The FDA says research shows menthol-flavored cigarettes may be harder to quit than their regular counterparts, in part because the additives reduce the harshness and irritation of smoking. The FDA may impose limits on the sale of most e-cigarette products in the USA, the Washington Post reported last week. It's unclear how long it would take for such a plan to take effect and tobacco companies could drag out the process by challenging a ban.

British American Tobacco fell 9% to £30.15 while Imperial Brands declined 3.8% to £36.44 on the speculation. The proportion is about 20 percent for Altria, according to the firm.

The proposal is part of the FDA's renewed crackdown on nicotine products, including e-cigarettes, the New York Times reported. The Winston maker gets about 15% of earnings from menthol brands such as Kool and Salem in the United States, according to Jefferies. Tobacco companies won an exception for menthol, the most popular flavoured cigarette and the one preferred by black smokers, when a federal law banned other flavours in 2009.

BAT shares have dropped 40 percent this year, the biggest drop in at least two decades.

But it is thought the menthol ban could take up to two years to come into force, with a year for the rules to be finalised and another year for the ban to be enforced in the marketplace.

Fears of menthol ban cost BAT a mint