Altria Group Inc., the largest seller of tobacco in the U.S., is getting into the e-cig business. The company announced that its subsidiary Nu Mark is planning to introduce an electronic cigarette in the second half of 2013, Bloomberg reported.
The electronic cigarette will be sold in an undisclosed market.
As demand traditional cigarette sales are declining, electronic cigarettes are inching closer to the mainstream. Chief Executive Officer Martin Barrington is aiming to catch up to smaller rivals, such as NJOY and Lorillard Inc. (LO), which says its blu eCigs brand controls more than 40% of the U.S. market. Reynolds American Inc. (RAI) said this week it plans to expand its Vuse e-cigarette this year, according to Bloomberg.
Lorillard CEO Murray Kessler told analysts yesterday the company estimates that electronic cigarette sales displaced consumption of about 600 million cigarettes in the first quarter. That totals an annual rate of roughly 2.4 billion cigarettes, accounting for about 1% of the U.S. market, according to Kenneth Shea, a Bloomberg Industries analyst in Skillman, N.J.