Why Marlboro Maker Bet on Juul, the Vaping Upstart Aiming to Kill Cigarettes

Tobacco-giant Altria says its $12.8 billion investment in the hot e-cigarette company will give it a piece of the fast-growing segment of the market. FDA scrutiny poses risks.

ingBy Jennifer Maloney and Dana Mattioli

RICHMOND, Va.—The biggest U.S. tobacco company has made a $12.8 billion bet on a company whose stated goal is to get smokers to drop cigarettes. The calculated gamble: The move will help the Marlboro maker keep up with a quickly changing market. The risk: It could hasten its own decline.

Facing an accelerating fall in cigarette sales, Altria Group Inc. in December put billions into Juul Labs Inc., a controversial startup whose sleek, nicotine-packed vaporizers have fueled a surge in the e-cigarette market.

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