British American Tobacco Creates Start-Up

Tobacco giant British American Tobacco PLC is creating a start-up company to develop nicotine-based products aimed at smokers seeking a safer alternative to cigarettes.

The unit, called Nicoventures Ltd., intends to bring to market “innovative, regulatory-approved” products, according to a website for the start-up. The site says the products Nicoventures is looking at aren’t currently available on the market.

The U.K. cigarette maker’s move is the latest by a large tobacco company seeking to offer smokers a less-harmful alternative to their daily habit. Reynolds American Inc., the second-largest U.S. tobacco company, acquired Niconovum AB, a Swedish maker of quit-smoking aids such as nicotine sprays, in 2009. Altria Group Inc. said in February that two of its subsidiaries will begin test-marketing spit-free, tobacco-coated sticks that resemble toothpicks.

Tobacco companies are increasingly offering alternatives to cigarettes—including many smokeless-tobacco products, such as Swedish-style snus—amid declining cigarette sales volumes in some markets and continued scrutiny of cigarettes by regulators.

A spokeswoman for British American Tobacco said in a statement that Nicoventures “will be managed separately from the group’s tobacco businesses.” She said the products from Nicoventures wouldn’t be tobacco-based, but use “pure nicotine.” She declined to elaborate on the types of products it is considering.

The Nicoventures website says, “The UK Government’s recently updated public health strategy for England recognizes there are many smokers who may not want to quit smoking but who want a safer alternative to cigarettes.” The company added, “We believe that the products currently on the market today are not meeting the needs of these smokers.”


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