Big Tobacco enters e-cigarette market. Hooray.

Cigarette Sales in Decline

Seeing the handwriting on the wall historically unprecedented declines in cigarette sales matched with accelerated sales for electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) old-line Big Tobacco companies are now selling, or getting ready to sell, their own versions of the new devices.

First in line was Lorillard, which purchased Blu e-cigarettes last April 2012. Now, RJReynolds and Altria/Philip Morris USA have announced their own plans to market the reduced-risk nicotine delivery devices (RJR has a brand called Vuse, already on sale in a few markets, which they plan to expand). British American Tobacco (BAT) launched a company devoted to reduced-harm products in 2011 (Nicoventures) and a related company, CN Creative, this year, and hopes to market a product within 1 or 2 years.

Previously, the large majority of e-cigarettes were made in China, where the technology was invented in 2004. Some of those early products were not reliably made, but as the years have passed, improved manufacturing practices have eliminated such concerns. The newer products marketed by U.S. tobacco companies will be made under strict supervision.

The e-cigarettes deliver a nicotine dose sufficient to satisfy the cravings of smokers trying to quit, along with a smoke-like vapor and flavorings. Most have an LED glowing light at the tip to mimic the cigarette experience. Such behavioral patterns have been shown to help smokers switch away from deadly, addictive cigarettes, and indeed millions have done so.

Despite what is developing into the major public-health miracle of the 21st century given the undeniable facts that cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in America, and that the FDA-approved methods to help smokers quit rarely work you d think the public health authorities and nonprofits would be applauding this development loudly. But their antipathy to anything that even resembles a cigarette is so ingrained, that they have decided to either sit this one out, or worse, to try to impede access to e-cigarettes by pretending they are real cigarettes and getting them banned or restricted.

ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross is extremely disappointed with their attitude: I say that if companies marketing e-cigarettes can make a profit, including Big Tobacco companies, more power to them! The more e-cigarettes sold, the fewer cigarettes smoked, and that will be a major benefit for our public health.