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The Big Tobacco Takeover

By Raymond Polidori

Wednesday July 23, 2014
Electronic cigarettes also known as water vapor cigarettes are now being pursued by Big Tobacco

tobacco companies are buying ecig companiesJust like water vapor cigarettes come in a variety of forms, from 2-piece e-cigs to e-cig tanks that use e-cig juice, so do their users.

Fans of the water vapor cigarette, also known as an electronic cigarette, come in different sizes, shapes, colors, religions and political affiliations.

This is a movement that is truly inclusive, picking up anyone who is looking for an alternative to smoking and quickly making them believers in the lifestyle changing features of water vapor cigarettes.

Another unifying issue for so called “vapers”? Big tobacco.

Just about everyone who uses a water vapor cigarette has had their experience with big tobacco and it is safe to say it wasn’t a good one.

Right or wrong, the thought of big tobacco conjures up images of greedy evil men in suits who don’t care one iota about their customers or the public at large. They were and are our biggest dealers of addiction, and no matter how expensive cigarettes get or how much we know about the terrible consequences of cigarette smoking, most would still go out and buy that next pack.

When water vapor cigarettes came upon the scene, smokers were finally presented with a viable alternative and a clear-cut way to break free from the chains of big tobacco. With the e-cigarette industry in its infancy, users of water vapor cigarettes got to buck the system in addition to changing their lifestyle for the better.

They now purchased from the little guy, as all brands were upstarts looking to collectively turn the tobacco industry on its head. At first, big tobacco wasn’t concerned at all, but as sales grew they began to fight the budding new e-cig industry with lobbyists and lawyers. They gave it everything they had, but in a modern day David and Goliath story, they lost.

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em

Or so goes the old cliché. This now resonated across the tobacco industry as cigarette companies saw their sales declining while growth in the e-cigarette category skyrocketed. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what was coming next, it was only a matter of when and how big tobacco would find their way in to this new and profitable industry.

Of the “big 3” tobacco companies, Lorillard made the first move when it purchased Blu in 2012. While Blu electronic cigarettes were popular already, this buy out would put them on the fast track and into retail stores around the country, where they now hold a 50% share of the market.

UPDATE: 7/19/2014 –  Lorillard was recently purchased by R.J Reynolds for $27 Billion

Most of the popular tobacco company brands already have their own e-cig company – Who are you buying from?

Big tobacco takeover - the ecig industry is being bought, one slice at a time

Next up to bat came RJ Reynolds, which decided to keep things in-house in developing the Vuse e-cigarette brand. Vuse launched nationally on June 23rd and will look to cut into the market share of Blu electronic cigarettes. Altria, the biggest of the big 3 tobacco companies, took a two-pronged approach.

While they have developed their own e-cigarette brand called Mark Ten that is also set to roll out nationally this year, they recently made a move to acquire Green Smoke. As e-cigarette brands go, Green Smoke has been one of the biggest online and has a great reputation. It allows Altria to diversify its own attack on the retail dominance of Blu electronic cigarettes.

What is most concerning to us here at ECCR is the impact on consumers. For a lot of us that have grown along with the industry from its very early days, it is a tough pill to swallow. We were used to railing against big tobacco with all our might and proudly raising the banner of smaller, independent e-cigarette brands.

traditional tobacco cigarettes are being run out by e-cigsThis went beyond the advantage of water vapor cigarettes over analogue cigarettes, this was about the little guy being in the right and winning the good fight.

Nowadays it feels like the good fight has been co-opted by the enemy and it is bizarre to say the least.

There are some positives from all of this, as there are pros and cons to everything. It is now clear that big tobacco is betting on e-cigarettes and that means a real solid future for the industry.

With their money and power, tobacco companies can grow the industry very quickly while guarding against over-reaching regulation.

This means more people will know about water vapor cigarettes faster, and that is a great thing for consumers. Plus, if these companies do end up making the best products, shouldn’t that be the most important factor for us?

All that being said, it’s not easy for us to stomach the fact that our dollars are now going back to big tobacco again. Bigger companies also tend to keep options more limited, so we haven’t seen any signs from any of big tobacco’s e-cigarette brands that they will be offering e-cig tanks and/or e-cig juice.

Even as big tobacco moves in and attempts to take over the industry, there are other options out there and there will continue to be.

That’s the great thing about an upstart industry, it has the flexibility to fit consumers’ needs, something that big tobacco could struggle with. The uniting struggle to fight for e-cigarettes is bound to continue in the near term, and we’ll be following closely to see how big tobacco affects it and what consumers can expect.

Raymond Polidori



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