LONDON Altria Group and Philip Morris International (PMI), the makers of Marlboro cigarettes in the United States and internationally, are teaming up to market electronic cigarettes and other "reduced risk" tobacco products.
Less dangerous alternatives to cigarettes are a key focus for big tobacco firms as governments worldwide crack down and consumers cut back.
"PMI firmly believes that reduced-risk tobacco products, as well as e-cigarettes, represent an important step toward achieving the public health goal of harm reduction, a potential paradigm shift for the industry and a significant growth opportunity for the company," said PMI Chief Executive Andre Calantzopoulos in a statement on Friday.
Under the terms of a set of licensing, supply and cooperation agreements, Philip Morris has the right to exclusively sell Altria's e-cigarettes outside the United States while Altria has the right to exclusively sell in the United States two "modified risk tobacco products" being developed by Philip Morris, which heat the tobacco without burning it.
Financial terms of the agreements were not disclosed.
The companies, which were combined until 2008, also said they would work together on scientific assessments and regulatory authorizations.
PMI already planned to test its "reduced risk" products in international markets during the second half of 2014.
It said the agreement with Altria provided a roadmap for commercialization in the United States, subject to approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It also accelerates its entry into the international e-cigarette market.
(Reporting by Martinne Geller; Editing by Mark Potter)