Reynolds American launching revamped e-cigarette

Published: June 6, 2013RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Reynolds American Inc. is launching a revamped version of its Vuse-brand electronic cigarette — which promises to give users the “perfect puff” — in Colorado, with its sights set on expanding nationally.

The expansion represents another push by a tobacco giant into the fast-growing business, a trend that is expected to continue.

The move announced Thursday by the owner of the nation’s second-biggest tobacco company is its first statewide e-cigarette distribution and is the latest in an industry wide push to diversify beyond the traditional cigarette business, which has become tougher in the face of tax hikes, smoking bans, health concerns and social stigma.

The Winston-Salem, N.C., company, which sells Camel, Pall Mall and Natural American Spirit cigarettes, as well as Grizzly smokeless tobacco, did not disclose the exact size of the Colorado retail distribution set to begin in July or a timeline for a national rollout. The launch will include an advertising campaign, which will include TV spots — a place tobacco companied have long been prohibited from marketing traditional cigarettes.

Electronic cigarettes are battery-powered devices that heat a liquid nicotine solution, creating vapor that users inhale. Some e-cigarettes are made to look like a real cigarette with a tiny light on the tip that glows. Devotees tout them as a way to break addiction to real cigarettes. They insist the devices address both the nicotine addiction and the behavioral aspects of smoking without the more than 4,000 chemicals found in cigarettes.

While many smokers have tried e-cigarettes, few switch entirely because “the products in the marketplace today just don’t meet their expectations,” Stephanie Cordisco, president of R.J. Reynolds Vapor Co., said in an interview ahead of the announcement. The company has tested an electronic cigarette in North Carolina and Virginia for about a year.

E-cigarettes maintain the “familiar ritual of the cigarette,” but most of the more than 250 brands available — hand-assembled and imported from overseas — have taste and performance issues, Cordisco said. And unlike their Marlboro or Camel cigarettes that let smokers see the pack getting emptier, smokers using their electronic counterparts often can’t tell when they are getting close to running out of vapor or battery power.

Reynolds believes its updated electronic cigarette “delivers on what smokers want,” by addressing those concerns, Cordisco said.

The rechargeable Vuse e-cigarette has technology that monitors and adjusts heat and power more than 2,000 times per second to deliver consistent puffs. It also has a smart light on the tip of to let users know when it’s getting low, needs to be replaced or recharged.

A single e-cigarette and cartridge lasting about as long as one pack of traditional cigarettes is expected to cost about $10 and will include a USB charger. Reynolds also will sell a set for about $30 that will include one electronic cigarette, three cartridges and a USB charger. Additional cartridges in both original and menthol flavors also will be sold as a two-pack for about $6.

The market for e-cigarettes has grown from the thousands of users in 2006 to several million worldwide. Analysts estimate sales could double this year to $1 billion. Some go as far as saying consumption of e-cigs could surpass consumption of traditional cigarettes in the next decade. Tobacco company executives even noted that e-cigarettes drove total industry cigarette volumes down about 600 million cigarettes, or about 1 percent, during the first quarter, excluding Internet sales — a major avenue for e-cig purchases.

Altria Group Inc., owner of the nation’s biggest cigarette maker, Philip Morris USA, announced in April a subsidiary plans to introduce an electronic cigarette during the second half of the year. The company is expected to provide details on its product at an investor meeting on Tuesday. Lorillard Inc., the nation’s third-biggest tobacco company, acquired e-cigarette maker Blu Ecigs in April 2012.

In recent comments to an industry group, Mitch Zeller, the new head of the Food and Drug Administration’s tobacco control efforts, noted that changes in the marketplace have forced the public health community to wrestle with the idea that some tobacco products, such as electronic cigarettes, may pose less of a health risk than others. The FDA plans to assert regulatory authority over e-cigarettes in the near future. Public health officials say the safety of e-cigarettes and their effectiveness in helping people quit regular smokes haven’t been fully studied.

Michael Felberbaum can be reached at .


#1 Lou Maiellano on 06.07.13 at 4:08 AM

This story has a video with info – check it out!

#2 on 06.08.13 at 6:49 AM

Strong move for Reynolds — good for them.

“Perfect puff” — I am not so sure of that and I’ve tried a bunch of the VUSE they’ve been selling already — sounds like taster’s choice offering a “perfect cup”– until you’ve tried it don’t believe it. *But* I do think it’s a better that chocolate BLU, so if that is the bench mark, I think is fair.

#3 Charlie on 06.08.13 at 11:26 AM

@asd you are so correct – and the rhetoric continues
“perfect puff” from start to finish not a chance and what about the leakage – i too tested several of the inits they have been selling – nothing special – yeah Blu ain’t perfect but its sooooo much better that that king product that “lasts up to two packs” NOT a chance your lucky to get a pack equaled of awfulness – but to each their own.

#4 Retailer on 06.24.13 at 7:45 AM

Now that RJR and Altria are getting in the game I can see the FDA lining up its cross hairs right now on this e-cig category. Taxation then regulation coming very very soon to a town near you.

#5 Copenhagen Man on 07.08.13 at 12:05 AM

Any body see the product launch in Colorado?

#6 OTP Kid on 07.22.13 at 2:53 PM

The VUSE I have weighs more than a piece of lead – does RJR think anyone wants this?

#7 on 07.23.13 at 9:54 AM

It’s not a bad product — better than a lot of the other stuff out like v2 or blu — depends where they price it, imho.

#8 Charlie on 07.23.13 at 10:15 AM

@sdf – Here is my question to you – Have you actually tried the VUSE product? If so was it the product in NC? Or the yet to be launched product in Colorado(possibly this week). If it is the product in NC you might be the lone voice that that product from NC was any good. Yeah it might have been good the first 25-30 puffs but after that it just never lived up to its expectations. Plus there was this issue of leakage. Just saying now if you have tried the new Colorado product time will tell but then if its not on sale yet how’d you get it? Just saying. That NC product no way measures up to the Blu or V2 products and I do recognize that folks have different taste profiles. Time will tell but the NC VUSE not a chance!

#9 Anonymous on 07.23.13 at 11:26 AM

I tried the NC product. My samples — and I only had a couple — did not leak. I cannot call that an exhaustive sample, so just my experience.

Flavor is of course very personal. To me, Blu is chocalate — I feel like I am drinking a dutch chocolate coffee of something — drives me nuts (just me).

And, I also thought the VUSE flavor was better than V2 (which I am also not crazy about).

I thought the metal casing was kind of cool — not sure you are going to get a price premium for it, but I thought it was neat.

At this point, I am not sure I even finished out my Vuse samples, so you’re point about the flavor changing — I cannot comment on that one.

#10 Charlie on 07.23.13 at 12:37 PM

well the point that needs to be brought out is whether any product actually delivers a consistent offering and that to date is an issue. very inconsistent. also flavor we could debate all day because some like pepsi and others like coke and others buy sam’s cola – how many cigarette sku’s are there in a store?
the stainless product is nothing new.
i’d be interested in seeing puffs managed – surely some are very misleading

#11 on 07.23.13 at 2:49 PM

A lot will shake out with the new regs — I think the whole industry will go into a big blender and we’ll see a lot of different things on the other side.

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