Recently, the major tobacco companies started shifting product focus to include electronic cigarettes as thousands of smokers give up tobacco in favor of vaping. Last year, RJ Reynolds released their Vuse e-cigarettes to a limited test market in Colorado. Then they expanded to include Utah in early 2014. Today, the tobacco giant announced plans to expand Vuse nationwide next week, with distribution available to retailers in all 50 states.
This is a big move for RJ Reynolds, but they are not the first to take the leap into a national ecig presence. Lorillard was the first tobacco player to make waves for the industry when they bought Blu eCigs in 2012. After implementing some valuable changes to the product line, they began an aggressive advertising that campaign that launched Blu to success. Now Blu Ecigs make up 40 percent of the US ecig industry. Altria has also expanded to include electronic cigarettes with two vaping brands available in a few select regions. They plan to send their ecigs nationwide soon.
There has never been a better time for big tobacco to establish a presence in the ecig world. Thousands of smokers are trading in their analog cigarettes for ecigs and Bloomberg Industries reported that ecig sales have increased by 72 percent in just the past year. With tobacco profits falling and ecig sales exploding, the time is right for tobacco companies to make a move. Under the current market conditions, ecigs could present the biggest threat to tobacco, but they could also be their biggest opportunity. Kenneth Shea, a senior analyst from Bloomberg, said the market is wide open for big tobacco to cash in on the ecig craze. “There’s virtually no barriers to entry in this business. That’s the exact opposite of traditional tobacco,” he said.
The challenge for tobacco companies will be two-fold. First, they will have to gain trust from consumers. These companies are associated with cigarettes, a death sentence in the eyes of former smokers. To trust the same corporations to offer quality e-cigs might be difficult for skeptical vapers.
Second, the tobacco giants have a lot of catching up to do! While they are rolling out basic ecig designs that look a lot like analog cigarettes, most ecig users have already tried the “cig-a-like” models and now they are gravitating towards more advanced vaping with tank mods that offer the option to use e-liquid. Big tobacco certainly has the resources to bridge the gap and create more advanced products, but they will have to work quickly to keep up with the movement that started long before they showed up to the game.
Even in the face of these challenges, RJ Reynolds spokesman Richard Smith said the company is confident that their ecigs will succeed. He pointed out that many ecig brands rely on designs made in China and they simply cannot compare to the consistency that the Vuse line will offer. Stephanie Cordisco, the president of RJR Vapor Company agreed that Vuse has what it takes to succeed.
“We are proud to expand our distribution of Vuse and offer adult smokers across the nation the most technologically advanced and best-performing digital vapor cigarette on the market,” she said. “Vuse is a game changer in the e-cigarette category, providing an innovative product that meets the expectations of adult tobacco consumers.”
If you live in Colorado or Utah, you might have already seen Vuse in local retail stores. For the rest of the country, they will be available next week. If you have tried Vuse, we would love to hear your opinion. How did it perform? Were you satisfied with the design? Do you think that this brand will soon rise to the top?