Can Electronic Cigarettes Challenge Big Tobacco?

NJOY's King is the first e-cigarette that looks (and feels and smokes) like the real thing. It's put traditional cigarette makers on notice.

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image: NJOY electronic cigarettes
Rosa + Rosa Studio, Inc / NJOY

A curious television commercial aired across the U.S. last month that, until its final few seconds, was indistinguishable from an ad for cigarettes — even though such advertising has been banned from broadcast TV for four decades.

In the television spot, the “cigarette” smoke, ash tip and flame look real. The carton looks authentic. The man smoking it looks satisfied.

The smoke, however, is vapor. The ash tip, plastic. The flame, simulated. The “cigarette” is a so-called electronic cigarette — in this case, an NJOY King, the first smokeless, nicotine-delivering, cigarette-like object that (at least according to its manufacturer) looks and feels and “smokes” like the real thing. Television commercials for NJOY Kings began running nationally in early December, making it the first smoking ad to run since Jan. 1, 1971, when Virginia Slims ran one final commercial a minute before the midnight deadline during The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. (President Nixon had signed legislation banning cigarette ads on TV and radio the year before.)

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E-cigarettes, invented in 2003, currently account for less than 1% of the $80 billion U.S. cigarette market. But they are growing rapidly: UBS projects that sales, which have doubled every year since 2008, will reach $1 billion in 2013. Numbers like that have put Big Tobacco on notice. “Consumption of e-cigs may overtake traditional cigarettes in the next decade,” predicts Wells Fargo analyst Bonnie Herzog. “And they’ll only evolve and improve as time goes forward — at far less risk. The technology portion of it is sort of like Apple. This is just Version 1.”

The Birth of the E-Cigarette

If e-cigarettes do start to take significant market share away from traditional cigarette makers, they’ll likely be led by NJOY, which has captured about a third of the e-cigarette market. The company was founded in 2006 by patent lawyer Mark Weiss, who had discovered an electronic cigar while traveling through China the year before. The technology was crude, but Weiss saw a business opportunity. Four years later, his brother Craig, also a patent attorney, took over as CEO.

The company’s strategy and professed ideals are to some extent a function of the fact that Craig Weiss doesn’t smoke at all. In short, NJOY claims it isn’t trying to create new smokers. It doesn’t market its product to children under 18, and it became the first independent e-cigarette maker to partner with the We Card program, which helps enforce the legal smoking age at convenience stores in the U.S. It doesn’t sell flavors like piña colada or bubble gum, only traditional menthol. And Weiss says his company is only going after current smokers, the 45 million Americans who light up on a regular basis.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 69% of smokers want to quit completely, and many of them are looking for alternatives. “Can you think of another consumer product in the world that the people who are buying it, while they’re buying it, are thinking, ‘God, I wish I wasn’t buying this?’ ” asks Weiss.

Many smokers try to quit for the obvious health benefits and the cost savings of not lighting up. For decades, tobacco has been the leading cause of preventable disease globally, and state and excise taxes have pushed prices of cigarette packs in places like Illinois and New York to upwards of $10 and $12 each.

But NJOY discovered something that smokers dislike almost as much as the high cost and the gloomy health implications. “Odor is a big thing for smokers,” says Weiss. “It’s their clothes and their hair, and it’s probably the biggest complaint that nonsmokers who are either cohabitating or co-working with smokers have about smoking.” Weiss believes NJOY has addressed this trifecta of problems: the NJOY King doesn’t burn tobacco; one e-cig (about $8) lasts about as long as two packs of conventional cigarettes; and it’s odorless.

A Virtual Cigarette

When NJOY created its new e-cig, the goal for Mark Scatterday — the King’s developer and also a nonsmoker — was to essentially create a virtual cigarette. The King is the same length and diameter as a traditional cigarette. The ash tip resembles glowing embers when in use. The cigarette itself has a papery feel to it. The “filter” is even a bit squishy.

Scatterday and others realized that to make a successful cigarette replacement, it had to not just meet the chemical needs of the user — delivering nicotine, that is — but also reproduce the full experience of smoking. For many smokers, the feel of a cigarette, the hand-to-mouth movement, the taste, even the physical act of holding the pack are almost as important as the nicotine itself. That’s one reason nicotine gum and patches have such high failure rates. Scatterday says his priority was figuring out how to “bridge the gap between your typical e-cigarette and an analog cigarette.”

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NJOY doesn’t make any health claims about its product, and its electronic cigarettes aren’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. E-cigarettes don’t burn tobacco, which means they don’t contribute to the wide array of deadly health problems related to smoking, which include lung cancer, stroke, heart attack, emphysema and high blood pressure.

A study released last year by researchers at the University of Athens has shown that the nicotine vapor in e-cigarettes led to an increase in airway resistance, making it harder to breathe and leading to lower levels of oxygen in participants’ bloodstream. Still, a number of doctors have come out in support of e-cigarettes as cessation devices for those wanting to quit; several have written publicly in support of NJOY and have criticized the methodology used in the University of Athens study.

But this much is clear: e-cigarettes are healthier than traditional cigarettes, and the three companies comprising Big Tobacco are beginning to either buy up electronic-cigarette companies or create their own versions.

Lorillard recently acquired e-cigarette maker Blu, which has an estimated 25% of e-cig market share, according to Wells Fargo’s Herzog. And Reynolds American is currently testing an electronic cigarette called Vuse. The only major tobacco manufacturer that hasn’t made a move is Altria, formerly Philip Morris, the maker of such brands as Marlboro, Parliament and Virginia Slims.

Analysts at both Wells Fargo and Goldman Sachs compare the growth in electronic cigarettes to the boom in energy drinks. Many of the big beverage companies failed to foresee the future popularity in energy drinks and reacted too late. The same thing may be happening with e-cigarettes.

While NJOY is independent from the three major tobacco manufacturers, there are rumors that Altria will attempt a takeover of NJOY. But for now, NJOY executives seem more interested in taking down Big Tobacco than cooperating with it. “Cigarettes haven’t evolved in 70 years,” says Weiss. “The last product innovation was the filter in 1952 and the flip-top box in 1954.”

Weiss isn’t shy about his vision for NJOY. He doesn’t want to just compete with large tobacco companies. He wants to beat them. “Our mission at NJOY is to obsolete cigarettes,” he says. “Do I believe that’s possible? Absolutely.”

52 comments
Karen1900
Karen1900

when I first tried to quit smoking I used  MyQuit Coach app. it is pretty cool but I cant say it helped me quit smoking. e-cigs and giving up coffee were the only 2 things that helped me quit. this is my fav brand https://www.neocig.co.uk/ 

dainelluke
dainelluke

i read your electronic cigarette post. it is very interesting and informative post. ecigarettesolutions.com

DavidNeo
DavidNeo

Electronic Cigarette can be a good alternative of smoke, I used it for 2 years, I took the high strength tobacco flavor refills at the beginning, 1 year later I took the medium, now I use the low strength, I wish that I use tobacco nicotine free refill later this year, then it will much better for my health. Electronic cigarette is good for smoker. If you are a smoke try it, if you are not don't try.

here I buy the kits and refills:

http://www.cartomizerfactory.com/shop.html

twas4kids
twas4kids

If the 2800 people working at Lorillard quit and got jobs that actually helped the planet the world would be a much better and safer place. It is never too late to quit... 

rp281091
rp281091

It is challenging cigarette and i think e cigarette will won the race. Because "Changes spice of of life" so changing cigarette with e cigarette explore interest in use. Even e cigarette is healthier than real cigarette so people more like to use it.

https://www.facebook.com/Steamlite

heavywolf
heavywolf

no , they cant compete with tobacco companies, they have too much money, they can buy any person who works at the FDA, i use ecigared electronic cigarettes since two years ago, customer service is excellent, you can see it on www.ecigared.com

lisalikes70scheese
lisalikes70scheese

Btw... Vanilla is my favorite flavor followed by Tabeeco. If you're trying it, make sure you order her brand... Basic. Also... this battery turns on and off, you can use it while it's charging and USB to wall, car or computer for the recharge. It drags just like a cigarette! It's the best thing I ever did for myself... and a bunch of friends followed suit that never thought they would quit smoking.

modernians
modernians

I think electronic cigarettes can definetely challenge the big tobacco companies like British American Tobacco, and I heard that they are actually launching a version of a smoking ceasation device soon.

PalashAhmed
PalashAhmed

This e-cig brand possesses an exclusive atomizer called VaporMax that is built inside the cartridges. This was done keeping in mind that when a user will inhale large amount of vapor he or she will experience a smooth flow of vapor.

Gajizmo
Gajizmo

I won't be surprised if a dozen new e-cigarette companies spring up in the next year or two, all hoping to get bought up. The interesting thing is that, there will likely be a few start-ups with innovative ideas since the pay-outs for technology could be huge if tobacco companies see the opportunity. I'm not a smoker of any kind, but a friend of mine said that http://www.myelectroniccigarettereviews.com/ helped him choose which company to try. 12 months later, he has weaned himself off of nicotine altogether. I think with the right mindset, e-cigs could be helpful. But the FDA is about to regulate the hell  out of the industry, so let's see what happens after that.

SafeCigCoupons
SafeCigCoupons

The electronic cigarette is truly beneficial to myself and thousands of others. People want to quit and when they find something that works they stick with it. Banning them is nearly impossible taking in count how many people would oppose this.

BonnieTakaro
BonnieTakaro

We do not need big tobacco ruining great American Small Business. It is true, there is no better time to switch over and enjoy the benefits of not smoking but instead vaping. www.takaro.us



jpolansky
jpolansky

E-cigarettes are not "taking on" Big Tobacco. As the article eventually points out, e-cigarettes are themselves Big Tobacco.  

The unregulated, China-made units have merely acted as stalking horses for the tobacco industry, which appears to be transforming itself into the nicotine industry — with cigarettes, cigars, chewables, and suckables as the delivery devices.

There's increasing concern, internationally, that the industry's strategy is to start off entry-level users on multiple products, including candy-flavors — with the goal, as before, of profiting from lifelong nicotine addiction — and to keep nicotine levels and dependence up among adult smokers 

Lorillard, Reynolds American and British American Tobacco can put unparalleled marketing muscle behind e-cigs. Meantime, consumers don't know the dosage, quality or safety of untested  e-cig brands now being plugged on cable channels and the Web. Every month that federal rule-makers dither, the deeper the nicotine industry digs in. 

So before you try an e-cig, ask yourself: "Why, exactly, would a tobacco company want to sell me this?" 

It's not for your health. It's something else.

universal93
universal93

Let the present cigarette manufacturers switch over to e-cigs ! This prevents factory closures, layoffs..

confettifoot
confettifoot

I was a very, very heavy chain smoker for decades and was unable to quit. I started using ecigs 3 years ago and have not had a cigarette since. This sounds like some sort of spurious cheesy promo, but it's simply the truth, for me and MANY others.  My health is far better than it was - my wind is back, wheezing and coughing long gone,  and my lungs are clear; I feel terrific. I run! No significant craving for cigarettes even at the beginning (and I have repulsion now for the smell and taste of tobacco), no mood problems, nada. I've neither gained weight nor suffered the miserable symptoms that I suffered using patches, gum and many repeated cycles of abstinence. 

The thing is, I'm very, very far from alone. In the huge internet forum to which I belong, there are thousands of similar reports ongoing. Some people have more difficulty than others in making the transition, but for most of us its been a huge, huge boon. Of course we're still using nicotine, we're perfectly aware of that, though far less - just as we'd be if using patches and other nicotine replacement products (with terrible track records). But nicotine isn't the big killer - tars and the many chemicals in tobacco smoke are. Research it.

 Vapor is made of glycol, water, food flavoring and nicotine. That's it.  It's flavored steam, and (to my endless surprise) it's very pleasant. At this point there are enough of us (most using products far, far superior to NJOYs and Blus) that word is getting around. My adult daughter, son-in-law and a number of clients also quit cigarettes, easily.  I don't know where this will go legally but many of us are pretty well informed about the many issues at stake, and deeply hope that the huge players ($$) here won't harshly limit, prohibit or ruin the effectiveness of ecigs.  

BTW, none of us who actually use this product, nor any vendor that I know of, would market this product to kids, nor is it really the sort of thing that is going to appeal to kids, flavored or not. Adults can keep cherry flavored medicine and chocolate liquor away from little ones (who in my experience are pretty disinterested in those items), and they are simply never going to be "cool", except to smokers desperate to replace their habit with something less deadly.  There's an enormous amount of propaganda out there.

January marks my three year mark. I'm feeling wonderful. Best and most ingenious invention ever.

bibleverse1
bibleverse1

Dont they still smoke tobacco? Made by tobacco companies?

U92
U92

The headline asks, "Can Electronic Cigarettes Challenge Big Tobacco?" Given that e-cigs ARE Big Tobacco, I'd say that if they want to, they can, quite easily.

E-cigs, as currently marketed, are:

- a kinder, gentler way to addict vulnerable youth and get them to commit to a lifetime of emptying their bank accounts into those of the tobacco industry, while giving nothing but addiction to a toxic non-essential in return, and

- just another scam, like "light" cigarettes, designed to convince smokers that they don't really need to quit and vulnerable kids that using them is harmless and carries no consequences.

There is also no research proving conclusively that passive exposure in the concentrations and frequencies expected in public spaces if they gain acceptance is as safe as or safer than not being exposed.

Harm reduction minimizes harm to the user without interfering with protection, prevention, and cessation. Enabling rationalizes continued addiction at everyone's involuntary expense.

Although there is no doubt that e-cigs have excellent harm reduction potential, before we have all the facts on the long-term implications of free and wide-spread public use, we need to set and enforce strict regulations on:

- consistent and accountable manufacturing standards (including full and accurate content disclosure)

- sales and marketing (restricted to regulated adult-only venues licenced to sell tobacco)

- public use (restricted the same way cigarettes are, for protection, prevention, and cessation purposes).

Anything less is enabling. I think we've learned enough lessons from dealing with Big Tobacco's lies and manipulations to not repeat that little bit of history.

emaderos
emaderos

I quit smoking using the ecig and feel much healthier.  I quit coughing all the time.  These are a much healthier alternative to smoking.

The different levels of nicotine available and the different flavors allow a person to quit smoking and change their habits.

I hope we will realize that e cigs are a healthier alternative to smoking and not let scare stories from anti-smoking groups win over common sense and science.



DeweySayenoff
DeweySayenoff

And in a related story, European health studies are indicating that eCigarettes are not effective in helping people quit smoking.  They're just substituting one nicotine delivery system for another.  There is no "quitting" here.

Nicotine is an addictive drug that is poisonous to living things.  But if nicotine disappeared from the face of the planet today, not a single person would die from nicotine withdrawals because no one in the history of the planet ever has from that.

So for those of you who say you "quit smoking" because you use eCigs not, I have some sad news - no you haven't.  You're still addicted, still spending money on something your body doesn't need or want and still perpetuating a culture of addiction to your drug of choice.  You're still "smoking".

Quitting means removing ALL crutches (hear that gum and patch users?) and devices that deliver the drug and removing all dependencies on that drug from one's life.  THAT'S quitting smoking.  Anything less is simply, sadly, self deception.

owen88
owen88

I find it wrong of NJOY that in the commercial they entirely pretend to be a real cigarette. It is somewhat glorifying which is not good. Electronic cigarettes are for current tobacco smokers only and should not even be advertised in any way to non-smokers.

However, as this survey shows 

http://www.ecigarettes365.com/Survey-Effectiveness-of-Electronic-Cigarettes

electronic cigarette users feel better and it saves them money. In summary, the product is worth being explored by smokers but should not be advertised to a broad audience.

KaryylKeystone
KaryylKeystone

I've finally quit using e-cigs (a mix of nJoy and not-nJoy) but I'd like to comment that most "vapers" (e-smokers) use flavors like banana, cinnamon, watermelon, and these flavors allowed them to leave their tobacco taste behind.  The average age of these users seems to be about 50, so I think it is fallacious to think that the taste for flavors is unique to young people.  In fact, young people seem to be less interested in ecigs than older people, unless their spouse is after them to quit.  It's those of us whose cough is getting very noticeable after 20-40 years of smoking.

Stern
Stern

I quit smoking recently using ecigs called Greensmoke In the beginning I was smoking both electronic & regular cigarettes daily, as time passed I found myself smoking "real" cigarettes less & less and about a month after I started with the Greensmoke I threw out cigarettes altogether. Now I am totally satisfied with my ecigs and I am very thankful to the makers of greensmoke.

This is for sure the future for smokers. Even to cut down it is a great invention! I can breathe easier I dont smell and its actually cheaper.

captainmorgan81
captainmorgan81

Hopefully, the more exposure and experience people have with e-cigs, the better. Many people have quite or cut back on traditional cigarettes so it will also be interesting to following their advertising and marketing, so see E Cig Werks 

http://ecigwerks.blogspot.com/ for more.

KassandraHill
KassandraHill

Do not use the NJOY's but I do LOVE my brand of eciggy.  Glad doctors are admitting they are a better alternative to smoking and can be used as a way to quit smoking.