An American tobacco company has agreed to buy asthma drug maker Vectura, which has its headquarters in Chippenham, for £927 million.

Vectura, founded in 1997, makes inhalers and nebulisers, which enable patients to breathe in medication as a mist, either through a mouthpiece or a mask.

The irony is not lost on Philip Morris International Inc (PMI) - known for its Marlboro cigarettes.

The company is increasingly trying to branch out into more nicotine-free ventures and help invest in treatment of health conditions that their cigarettes can cause.

Jacek Olczak, chief executive officer of PMI, said: “The market for inhaled therapeutics is large and growing rapidly, with significant potential for expansion into new application areas. PMI has the commitment to science and the financial resources to empower Vectura’s skilled team to execute on an ambitious long-term vision. Together, PMI and Vectura can lead this global category, bringing benefits to patients, to consumers, to public health, and to society-at-large.”

But the government has been urged to scrutinise the deal made between PMI and Venctura, after concerns from anti-smoking groups such as the Tobacco Control Research Group.

Labour’s shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth and Ed Miliband, the shadow business secretary, have both also encouraged the government to step in.

Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive added: “It’s ironic that a tobacco company wants to invest in the lung health industry when their products are the biggest preventable cause of cancer, including lung cancer. If PMI really wanted to help, they could stop aggressively promoting and selling their products altogether.”

In documents seen by the Gazette, current Vectura staff had been advised the company intends to move part of its functions from its Chippenham headquarters to a new Inhalation Centre of Excellence in the South West of England.

PMI has confirmed it intends to continue with this plan but “does not intend to make any other material changes in the locations of Vectura’s headquarters and headquarter functions.”

Philip Morris is offering 150 pence in cash for every Vectura share, the companies said in a statement Friday. That’s 11% higher than Thursday’s closing price, and beats an offer from Carlyle Group Inc. that management had agreed to in May. The Carlyle Group are reportedly still mulling over their options.

A takeover battle could follow between the two companies.