The 5 Dumbest Things on Wall Street This Week: July 26
2. Menthol Mishegas
It wasn't the cancer that killed tobacco stocks this week. It was the cool, fresh taste.
Shares of cigarette-makers got smoked Tuesday following a Food and Drug Administration report that said menthol cigarettes probably pose a greater public health risk to young and African-American smokers than regular cigarettes. Lorillard (LO), the biggest purveyor of menthol cigarettes with its Newport brand, sank over 4% on the news. Marlboro-maker Altria Group (MO) and Reynolds American (RAI) both fell around 3%.
Not that these minty flavored smokes are more or less toxic than the regular kind mind you. The FDA, which is mulling a ban on the specialty cigs, said the risk of disease is the same for both types.No, the conclusion is that menthol's taste and cooling properties make it more attractive to younger smokers. To which our clinically-based reply is: No duh! You know what also makes smoking attractive to younger smokers? Johnny Depp and those Sex and the City women toking up all the time. Boy would we like to ban their terrible movies if we could, but unlike the FDA, we don't have that power. The point is that if the FDA wants to ban cigarettes because they cause lung cancer, it should simply do that. Going after Marlboro's menthol brand because it's a gateway cigarette to Marlboro reds makes no sense. It's analogous to the Feds trying to crack down on cherry bubble gum because it may lead chewers to the original flavor. Not that anything is going to happen of course, other than Lorillard, which counts on menthol smokes for 90% of its sales, taking a momentary beating. Not to worry though. Wells Fargo analyst Bonnie Herzog reiterated her buy on Lorillard shares Tuesday, saying "it could still be a long time until some type of final resolution is ultimately reached." Huzzah, Herzog! We agree that nothing is going to happen, especially when the FDA says it's seeking "more information on outcomes and we are honestly soliciting comment in response to the questions about regulatory outcomes." Oh my, after all this time and energy these guys still seeking comments. They have to be smoking something -- and it's probably not tobacco. But if that's what they want. Fine. Here's ours. If the real problem is the cigarettes themselves, then stop beating around the tobacco bush and attack it directly. This whole menthol mishegas is wasting everybody's time and money. Now excuse us while we step out for an e-cig. All the cool kids are smoking those now anyway.
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