Tobacco companies on both sides of the Atlantic are beginning to show signs of interest in the cannabis industry. Global tobacco company Imperial Brands announced that Simon Langelier has been added to its non-executive board of directors on June 12. Langelier is also the chairman of the Canadian firm PharmaCielo, a supplier of medical cannabis oil extracts. Other tobacco companies could follow Imperial’s example including Philip Morris International, British American Tobacco, Altria and Reynolds American.
Langelier’s experience with Phillip Morris has prepared him for this role. Imperial Chairman Mark Williamson said Langelier’s “extensive international experience in tobacco and in wider consumer adjacencies will be a great asset to the board.”
The UK-based tobacco company has expanded its reach across the globe. In 2015, Imperial changed its name from “Imperial Tobacco” to “Imperial Brands,” signaling a change in direction. The company has vertically expanded into the vaporizer realm to diversify its line of products. Imperial is behind the Blu e-cigarette line that was obtained from Lorillard after Lorillard merged with Reynolds American.
Tobacco companies have invested billions of dollars into research and development into vaping products in a desperate attempt to adjust to the drop-in cigarette use. Altria’s cigarette shipments are 2.7 percent down in the last quarter, and Philip Morris’s shipments were 11.5 percent down. E-cigarette use is in decline as well, and tobacco companies are going to have to come up with a solution to a decline in sales.
The commercial cannabis market is already moving in the direction of marketing pre-roll packs that resemble cigarette packs. Other tobacco companies based in the United States are looking into the cannabis industry. The Northeast Association of Wholesale Distributors, a tobacco trade group, asked state officials to require cannabis producers to go through their distribution system. All of the signals point to big tobacco’s interest in the enormous potential of the cannabis industry.