RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Marlboro maker Altria Group Inc. said Wednesday that it plans to expand its MarkTen electronic cigarette brand nationally in the second quarter.
Altria's Nu Mark subsidiary first launched MarkTen in test markets in Indiana and Arizona late last year. The company has said the disposable e-cigarette, which can be reused with a charging kit and additional cartridges, provides a more consistent user experience through its "Four Draw" technology that closely resembles the draw of a traditional cigarette.
The owner of the nation's biggest cigarette maker, Philip Morris USA, was the last of the nation's major tobacco companies to market an electronic cigarette in an industrywide 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.
Electronic cigarettes are battery-powered devices that heat a liquid nicotine solution, creating vapor that users inhale. Devotees say e-cigarettes address both the addictive and behavioral aspects of smoking. Smokers get their nicotine without the more than 4,000 chemicals found in regular cigarettes. And they get to hold something shaped like a cigarette, while puffing and exhaling something that looks like smoke.
Altria said consumer spending on electronic cigarettes in the U.S. reached about $1 billion. Increased awareness and trial of e-cigarettes have driven category growth, and the company estimates that 90 percent of adult smokers are aware of the products and about two-thirds have tried them.