COVID VaccinesReturn to WorkMental Health

Brainstorm Health: Philip Morris Cheers Nicotine Limits, Johnson & Johnson Cancer Verdict

August 22, 2017, 4:26 PM UTC

Good morning, readers! This is Sy.

Last month, public health officials cheered as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) unveiled a surprise proposal aimed at making cigarettes as minimally addictive as possible. The crux of the plan? Limit nicotine levels in traditional, combustible cigarettes to a non-addictive amount.

“Because almost 90% of adult smokers started smoking before the age of 18 and nearly 2,500 youth smoke their first cigarette every day in the U.S., lowering nicotine levels could decrease the likelihood that future generations become addicted to cigarettes and allow more currently addicted smokers to quit,” the agency wrote in a release.

You might think the specter of such an ambitious overhaul would spook tobacco companies. And, at the time of the announcement, shares of several major cigarette manufacturers tumbled. But the chief executive of at least one massive tobacco outfit is actually hailing the FDA’s stance.

Philip Morris International CEO Andre Calantzopoulos tells Reuters he believes the FDA’s plan is “one of the best articulated positions in many years.” He also doesn’t believe it’s inevitable that the industry will pursue litigation to fight regulators on the issue.

Why the optimistic take? A changing market. Philip Morris International has been pouring resources into combustible cigarette alternatives like electronic cigarettes and its “iQOS” system—which stands for “I Quit Ordinary Smoking.” The latter is a form of “heat-not-burn” tobacco product that nixes the combustible element of traditional cigarettes (a major source of smoking toxins). According to Calantzopoulos, three million people globally have already switched over to iQOS from cigarettes—and it isn’t even on the market in the U.S. yet.

Read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee


Walmart, 9 food giants team up with IBM on blockchain plans. My colleague Robert Hackett delves into the ever-expanding world of blockchain technology, the distributed digital ledger system that's beginning to work its way into industries ranging from the banking to health care to food sectors. Now, a group of food giants (including Walmart, Unilever, and Nestlé) are teaming up with IBM to gauge possible ways to integrate the tech into food supply chains. (Fortune)


Johnson & Johnson slammed with biggest verdict yet in baby powder trial. Drug giant Johnson & Johnson has been hit with a $417 million verdict in the latest trial focusing on alleged links between talc-based products like its Johnson's Baby Powder, use by many for feminine hygiene, and ovarian cancer. The largest previous verdict in the cases was for $110 million, and the company has repeatedly said it will appeal all verdicts. (Fortune)


Activist hedge fund scoops up shares of Tenet Healthcare. Activist hedge fund group Camber Capital Management has taken a 5.7% stake in hospital chain Tenet Healthcare, which has been losing money amid declining patient admissions. Tenet's management has tangled with its board; the question now is whether or not Camber or another investor will launch a proxy fight. (Modern Healthcare)


Believe the Hype: Here's the Actual Next Big Thing in Techby Clifton Leaf

This Country May Launch Its Own Virtual Currencyby David Meyer

Is 'Google' Generic? Supreme Court May Decideby Jeff John Roberts

Why Big Business Is Racing to Build Blockchainsby Robert Hackett

Produced by Sy Mukherjee

Find past coverage. Sign up for other Fortune newsletters.