Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations Yankee Doodling

Big Tobacco lights up e-cigarettes

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: (Published 24 May 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f3418
  1. Douglas Kamerow, chief scientist, RTI International, and associate editor, BMJ
  1. dkamerow{at}

Good news or bad?

E-cigarettes, more formally electronic nicotine delivery systems, were introduced in 2007. They are battery powered, cigarette shaped devices that vaporize nicotine so that it can be inhaled. E-cigarettes are currently a relatively tiny market. In the United States they accounted for about $500m (£330m; €390m) in sales last year, perhaps 0.5% of tobacco receipts.1

That is changing. The tobacco company Lorillard purchased the leading e-cigarette maker Blu last year. Reynolds American is expanding marketing of its Vuse e-cigarettes, and Altria, the largest US tobacco company, has announced that it will enter the e-cigarette market later this year with its own product.1 Marlboro e-cigarettes, anyone? The game is on.

This, of course, has public health advocates terrified. Just when we had Big Tobacco on the run, with US sales falling 3-4% a year, along comes a new product that may save them—as well as maintain the nicotine addiction that they depend on for sales. In fact, tobacco industry sales were down more than 6% last year, due in no small part to the increase in e-cigarette sales. Hence the recent acquisitions and announcements.1

Let us count the ways …

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