The potential ban of menthol cigarettes in the US pulverised the share price of British American Tobacco (BAT) this week. On the JSE, BAT’s share price haemorrhaged 11.3% on Monday — wiping R174bn off the market value of SA’s largest listed company, after AB InBev. It was equally brutal for BAT in London, where it is also listed. But the impact was more muted for Imperial Brands, maker of Davidoff, West and Gauloises (which lost 4%), and Altria, maker of Marlboro (which lost 3%.). But investors needn’t panic, say analysts: such a ban would involve making a tricky distinction, as menthol cigarettes are factually no more harmful than ordinary cigarettes. To ban them, then, would be difficult to justify scientifically. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is arguing that menthol cigarettes make it harder to stop smoking, so they pose a greater health risk than regular cigarettes. The irony is that they are harder to quit because they taste better, or at least they don’t feel as "r...

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