FTC sues to unwind tobacco company's $12.8 billion Juul investment

It says the companies worked together to eliminate competition in the vaping market.

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The FTC is taking aim at Altria's $12.8 billion investment in Juul.

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The Federal Trade Commission is suing to unwind Altria's $12.8 billion investment in vaping company Juul, saying they "turned from competitors to collaborators by eliminating competition." 

It alleged that tobacco company Altria, which also owns Marlboro and Virginia Slims, agreed not to compete with Juul for six years as it took a 35% stake.

"For several years, Altria and JUUL were competitors in the market for closed-system e-cigarettes. By the end of 2018, Altria orchestrated its exit from the e-cigarette market and became JUUL's largest investor," Ian Conner, director of the Bureau of Competition, said in a release.

Altria denied the FTC allegation and plans to "vigorously defend" its investment.

E-cigarette companies like Juul came under increased regulatory scrutiny last September after being linked to a series of lung-related illnesses and deaths. In early February, the CDC said there had been 64 deaths and more than 2,700 hospitalizations linked to vaping.

Juul didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

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