Altria Group, the largest seller of tobacco in the U.S., plans to introduce an e-cigarette this year, chasing smaller rivals as demand for traditional smokes declines.
The e-cigarette will be sold in an undisclosed market starting in the second half of 2013, Richmond, Virginia-based Altria said today in a statement. The company declined to provide additional information until a conference call with analysts today, according to a story in Bloomburg News.
CEO Martin Barrington is trying to catch up to smaller rivals such as closely held NJOY and Lorillard Inc., which says its Blu e-cigs brand controls more than 40 percent of the U.S. market. Reynolds American Inc. said this week it plans to expand its Vuse e-cigarette this year.
First-quarter cigarette shipments fell at Altria, Winston-Salem, North Carolina-based Reynolds and Greensboro, North Carolina-based Lorillard. Altria’s U.S. volume tumbled 5.2 percent, with top-selling Marlboro slipping 5.5 percent.
Lorillard CEO Murray Kessler told analysts yesterday the company estimates that e-cigarette sales displaced consumption of about 600 million cigarettes in the first quarter. That translates to an annual rate of about 2.4 billion cigarettes, accounting for about 1 percent of the U.S. market, according to Kenneth Shea, a Bloomberg Industries analyst in Skillman, New Jersey.
Category: Breaking News