RICHMOND (AP) – Tobacco company Altria Group Inc is launching its first electronic cigarette under the MarkTen brand starting in August and expanding its smokeless product offerings.
The owner of the nation s biggest cigarette maker, Philip Morris USA, announced the details of its NuMark subsidiary s foray into the fast-growing business Tuesday.
It s the last of the major US tobacco companies to market an electronic cigarette in an industrywide push to diversify beyond the traditional cigarette business, which has become tougher in the face of tax hikes, smoking bans, health concerns and social stigma.
The company declined to say whether it plans to expand beyond the initial statewide test market or whether it plans to advertise on TV a place tobacco companies have long been prohibited from marketing traditional cigarettes.
Electronic cigarettes are battery-powered devices that heat a liquid nicotine solution, creating vapor that users inhale.
Devotees say e-cigarettes address both the addictive and behavioral aspects of smoking. Smokers get their nicotine without the more than 4,000 chemicals found in regular cigarettes. And they get to hold something shaped like a cigarette, while puffing and exhaling something that looks like smoke.
More than 45 million Americans smoke cigarettes, and about half of smokers try to quit each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
MarkTen is a disposable e-cigarette but can be reused by buying a separate battery recharging kit and additional cartridges in both tobacco and menthol flavors.
The company said the e-cigarette s “Four Draw” technology is designed to give users a “more consistent experience” that closely resembles the draw of a traditional cigarette.
The e-cigarette, made in China by a contract manufacturer, is expected to sell for about $9.50. Prices for additional cartridges and recharging kit were not available. The liquid for the cartridges is being produced in the US.
The market for e-cigarettes, which includes more than 250 brands, has grown from the thousands of users in 2006 to several million worldwide. Analysts estimate sales could double this year to $1 billion. Some go as far as saying consumption of e-cigs could surpass consumption of traditional cigarettes in the next decade.
Like other tobacco companies, Altria also is focusing on cigarette alternatives for future sales growth because the decline in cigarette smoking is expected to continue.
The company plans to debut a gum containing tobacco in Denmark this summer under the Tju (pronounced like “chew”) through a previously announced joint venture with an affiliate of Fertin Pharma A/S to develop non-combustible nicotine-containing products.