For years tobacco companies have been fighting regulators more than each other. That might be about to change, and Altria in particular needs a game plan.
If Philip Morris International ’s $16 billion offer for oral nicotine pouch maker Swedish Match is accepted, U.S. cigarette makers will suddenly have a nimble new competitor. Soon after it was spun out of Marlboro co-owner Altria in 2008 to focus on overseas markets, a slowdown in international cigarette volume forced Philip Morris to innovate in smokeless products. Since 2014, the company has built IQOS from scratch—a noncombustible heated-tobacco brand that now generates $9 billion in annual revenue.