$4.5 billion --- up in smoke. That's the amount Altria wrote down on its investment in Juul Labs. That's huge, considering the tobacco company paid nearly $13 billion last year to buy a 35% stake in the leading electronic-cigarette maker.
Among the reasons cited for taking the charge: the increased chances the Food & Drug Administration would remove flavored e-vapor products from the market and bans in some cities and states and in certain international markets.
Juul has been under the gun, accused by regulators, lawmakers and state attorneys general of fueling the so-called vaping epidemic among teens. Juul has suspended advertising in the U.S., hired an Altria executive as its CEO, and revamped its management.
In a conference call with analysts Thursday, Altria's CEO said he didn't anticipate the dramatic change in the e-vapor category when the company invested in Juul. He said the best way to reverse the rise in teen vaping is to hike the legal age of buying tobacco products to 21.