The big three of Big Tobacco have official arrived in the e-cigarette market. Today Altria, the owner of Philip Morris USA, announced that its first e-cigarette, MarkTen, will launch in August under subsidiary company NuMark. This announcement comes 5 days after R.J. Reynolds announced that their new e-cigarette, Vuse, will launch in Colorado on July 1. Lorillard acquired Blu Ecigs in April of 2012 and has since expanded to more than 80,000 retail locations. There are over 250 brands of e-cigarettes on the market and industry analysts estimate that sales could top $1 billion this year—nearly doubling from 2012.
This proliferation of new brands, coupled with aggressive marketing tactics and a current lack of regulatory action, have catapulted e-cigarettes into the U.S. market.
A study published earlier this year by the CDC found that, in 2011, about 1 in five adult cigarette smokers in the U.S. had tried an e-cigarette, a 10% increase from 2010. Despite this rapid increase in use, much remains unknown about the long-term health impacts of e-cigarette use and how these products might affect traditional cigarette use, particularly among youth.
Though the FDA indicated that they would regulate e-cigarettes as tobacco products in April 2011, to date no regulation has been enacted at the Federal level and companies are taking advantage of the lack of regulation. R.J. Reynolds, FIN, blu and other brands have all debuted TV ads, a practice that has been banned for traditional cigarettes since 1971.
Much remains unknown about the way e-cigarettes are being used and their true health risks. Tim McAfee, director of the Office on Smoking and Health at the CDC noted that, “If large numbers of adult smokers become users of both traditional cigarettes and e-cigarettes — rather than using e-cigarettes to quit cigarettes completely — the net public health effect could be quite negative.”