Altria Pulls Elite and Apex Vape Devices

Manufacturer responds to FDA’s efforts to prevent underage vaping

RICHMOND, Va. -- Following warning letters sent by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to several manufacturers of electronic cigarettes and vaping devices, Altria Group Inc. announced plans to remove its MarkTen Elite and Apex by MarkTen pod-based vaping products until they “receive a market order from the FDA or the youth issue is otherwise addressed,” the company said in a press release.

The move is the first in what could be many steps by manufacturers as the FDA investigates marketing practices for such devices.

Announced alongside its quarterly earnings report on Oct. 25, Richmond, Va.-based Altria related its actions back to the FDA's September announcement of steps it is taking to address the problem of minors using vaping products.

“The FDA also asked several companies, including Altria, to provide plans to address underage use of e-vapor products,” Altria said. “Altria welcomed the FDA’s action and recently met with FDA Commissioner [Scott] Gottlieb to discuss actions that could be taken.”

Along with the removal of those products, Altria's remaining MarkTen and Green Smoke “cig-a-like” products from subsidiary, Nu Mark, will only sell tobacco, menthol and mint varieties. The move will discontinue other flavors until those products receive a market order from the FDA or, again, the youth issue is otherwise addressed.

With those products removed, approximately 80% of Nu Mark’s e-vapor volume in the third quarter of 2018 will remain on the market, the company said.

Following the announcement, industry analyst Bonnie Herzog, managing director of consumer equity research for Wells Fargo Securities, New York, said she views Altria’s decisions to remove the products “as a positive” for the company and investors.

In two separate announcements, Altria said it will also support federal legislation to establish 21 as the minimum age to purchase any tobacco product, and that another subsidiary, Philip Morris USA, is “ready to deploy its initial lead market plans for [new product] iQOS upon FDA authorization.”

Altria's partner in the U.S. introduction of iQOS, New York-based Philip Morris International, announced those marketing plans for the heat-not-burn device earlier this year.

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