Tobacco maker proposes boosting products beyond cigarette category

RICHMOND, Va. Altria Group yesterday told shareholders that in order to keep business flowing it plans to expand beyond cigarettes to other tobacco categories.

Cigarette sales have failed recently and the company attributed this decline to concerns about health, price increases and sweeping smoking bans.

“As the company looks to the future, it has clear recognition of the fact that conventional cigarettes are harmful in society and we’d like to make some progress on improving that situation,” chief executive Michael Szymanczyk said.

Cigarette sales will continue to drop 2.5 percent to 3 percent in the next few years, analysts have predicted. Altria said it will modify products based on consumers input to try to counter that loss, the company said.

The Altria Group is made up of cigar manufacturer John Middleton, Philip Morris USA, Philip Morris Capital Corp. and a 29 per cent stake in London-based SABMiller PLC, brewer of Miller beer. Sales for this period totaled $4.41 billion, up nearly 3 percent from $4.3 billion at the same time last year.

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