Last updated: 10:23 / Thursday, 17 April 2014
The Boston Company AM

E-Cigarettes, Momentum to Legalize Marijuana Could Revive Tobacco Industry

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E-Cigarettes, Momentum to Legalize Marijuana Could Revive Tobacco Industry
  • BNY Mellon Investment Boutique sees substantial market for electronic nicotine delivery systems
  • TBC estimates that the largest three tobacco companies in the U.S. now hold approximately 25 percent of the global market
  • Declining sales of traditional cigarettes has been driving the big tobacco companies to diversify into related products, and marijuana would be a natural evolution

E-cigarettes and growing momentum to legalize marijuana in the United States could dramatically revive growth for major tobacco companies, which have not introduced a major new product since light cigarettes in 1970, according to The Boston Company Asset Management (TBC), BNY Mellon's Boston-based equity investment boutique.

The growing popularity of electronic nicotine-delivery systems (ENDS) has been increasing significantly over the last two years, according to David M. Sealy, senior equity research analyst at TBC and the author of the report, Up in Smoke: Changes Sweep the Tobacco Industry.

While the ENDS industry initially was dominated by small entrepreneurial companies, TBC estimates that the largest three tobacco companies in the U.S. now hold approximately 25 percent of the global market.

"The global market for ENDS is substantial, and we estimate that it now amounts to $3 billion in annual revenue, with roughly half in the U.S. and the other half in Europe, primarily in the UK," said Sealy.  "But this means that the ENDS market share is a mere 0.5 percent of the $670 billion global cigarette industry." Sealy added that he does not expect regulatory scrutiny to meaningfully slow the growth of e-cigarettes.

Regarding marijuana, Sealy said, "Legalization in the U.S. could be closer than most people think." The TBC paper notes that the current marijuana policies as measured by consumption are a failure, with consumption growing consistently over the last 40 years. In addition, the costs of current policies including incarceration, enforcement, and loss of taxation are large and growing amid budget woes, the report said.

The report cites growing popular support for legalization and notes the trend for decriminalization in more states. "Until now the markets have focused primarily on the impact of legalization on speculative small cap stocks, but if legalization becomes official federal policy, the big tobacco companies will end up dominating the market," Sealy said. 

Declining sales of traditional cigarettes has been driving the big tobacco companies to diversify into related products, and marijuana would be a natural evolution of this strategy, the report said. The report also notes that the tobacco industry also is well adapted to an environment of high taxation, regulation and litigation, which are expected to accompany any commercialization of marijuana. "From a regulator's point of view, tobacco companies may be the most desirable entrants in the industry as they may be the most controllable players in the commercialization of marijuana," said Sealy. 

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