E-cigarettes offer brave new world for smokers and cigarette makers

Altria Group rolls out its plans to get into the electronic cigarette market today, and Facebook investor Sean Parker just invested $75 million in e-cigarette giant NJOY. No doubt about it, the e-cigarette market is on fire.  

At a bar in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, 32-year-old Andy Lee takes a drag from a Puf brand e-cigarette. He started smoking them about six months ago.

"I wanted to quit smoking, and I wasn’t ready to do it cold turkey," says Lee. "Unlike other forms, like the patch or the gum, e-cigarettes still let me have the feeling like I'm smoking."  

E-cigarettes contain liquid nicotine that turns into a vapor smokers inhale. Lee says e-cigarettes are sold pretty much everywhere now, and a lot of people he knows are starting to buy them.

"My friends are slowly ditching regular cigarettes for e-cigarettes,"  he says.  

Sales of e-cigarettes are expected to double this year to about $1 billion. Meanwhile, sales of regular cigarettes have been declining for 40 years (they still total $80 billion). Those numbers have gotten the attention of big tobacco. Last week R.J. Reynolds unveiled its e-cigarette, Vuse.

"Part of our transformation strategy is really about redefining tobacco enjoyment," says Stephanie Cordisco, head of R.J. Reynolds' e-cigarette division. "We expect this is going to be a significant game-changer for our industry and will deliver a very strong profit to the bottom line."

Until recently, most e-cigarette makers have been small, independent companies, but now Altira and R.J. Reynolds are rolling out e-cigarettes and Lorillard recently purchased Blu, a well established e-cigarette brand.

"It’s still a relatively new category, but it’s growing leaps and bounds," says Bonnie Herzog, a tobacco analyst at Wells Fargo. "In the next 10 years, there’s a good chance consumption of e-cigs could surpass the consumption of traditional cigs."  

Herzog attributes that growth to a number of things: E-cigs are usually less expensive than regular cigarettes, they can be smoked indoors and don’t carry the stigma regular cigarettes do. Most importantly, says Herzog, many smokers, like Andy Lee, see them as a way to help them quit or cut back, while still enjoying the smoking experience.    

About the author

Stacey Vanek Smith is a senior reporter for Marketplace, where she covers banking, consumer finance, housing and advertising.
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E-cigarettes are no doubt better than the original cigarettes but they too use chemicals which have own little disadvantages. One must take care not to use anything in excess so as to harm himself or others in the process.

Stacy Vanek Smith's piece, entertaining as it was, highlights the need for e-cigarette users to recognize that chemicals, including nicotine, emanating from e-cigarettes, are harmful to others, including pregnant women. No one should be using them in the bathroom, as her interviewee obviously was, other places where ordinary cigarettes are restricted. Whoever has to use the restroom next might be pregnant, etc.

First and foremost, CDenney, let me sing you the song of my people. You are a coont and a blithering idiot. You have no concept of the realities of which you purport to speak and I award you NO points. May God have mercy on your soul.

NOW, as to the real and unspoken issues of the electronic cigarettes. The one marketing tack these companies will NEVER take is the suicidal one. Why do we choose an electronic cigarette? We want to quit smoking real cigarettes. By using an electronic cigarette with a minimal dosage of nicotine, we can still play a bit of lip service to our addiction without subjecting ourselves to massive dosages of tar, carbon monoxide, other nasty chemicals, super heated gases, ridiculous tobacco company prices and obscene government tax burdens. The day ANY electronic cigarette maker tries to market his product as a 'quit smoking aide,' the full wrath and fury of the FDA will descend upon him and he will be swallowed up in regulations such as to insure the he and his product will never see the light of day without a ton of restrictions and a mountain of taxes and/or fees.

Take my wife and myself as an example. For Christmas 2009, we gifted each other starter packs of No. 9 brand electronic cigarettes. Between the two of us we were consuming close to 3 packs of cigarettes a day. Two months later I was hospitalized with pneumonia, diagnosed with COPD and told that I wouldn't be sent home unless I swore on a stack of bibles to stop smoking. At that point, my wife and I ceased real cigarettes and began using the electronic cigs exclusively.

The end result? Our nicotine usage has gradually diminished to several electronic puffs a day. Our general health has seen a great improvement. Our cash outlay has precipitously decreased from over $7,000 a year (3 packs at $7+each plus 7% sales tax X 365) to under $300 a year (rechargeable batteries and low nicotine dosage atomizer cartridges.) We continue to function without mad addictive cravings and with none of the eating/drinking/other compensating behaviors associated with really going cold turkey. We're living in the best of all possible worlds until our jerkwater grandstanding politicians realize that the cash cow of tobacco sin taxes is drying up. With any luck, I'll have weaned myself off the last of my nicotine dependency before then and so some other poor schmuck will end up paying $50+ for the same e-cigarette I got for $9.99 and I'll have dodged the tax bullet entirely.

If it's any consolation, CDenney, I'm sure to be dead of the complications of emphysema long before someone cracks your skull open for being an insufferable jerk.

Here endeth the lesson.

Haha.. Bruno Mars and Sean Parker are just two of the celebs - there's even Johnny Depp, Cherry Cole and Robert Pattinson! Oh and not to mention Simon Cowell... and it's true, that even Big Tobacco players are starting to invest into the e-cig industry - probably within the year, they'll begin to release e-cigarettes patented to their own. lol.

Mark Jenkins

You are seeing a lot of heavy investment in the rapidly growing e-cigarette market. Bruno Mars, now Sean Parker. They recognize good investments and good products with many redeeming qualities. Even Big Tobacco is trying to get back their lost market share through the growing industry.

Robert Monroe

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