Philip Morris, the company behind Marlboro, says electronic cigarettes are its “greatest growth opportunity.”
It’s probably not wrong. A recent self-reported survey showed e-cigarette usage among teenagers doubled to 6.8 percent from 2011 to 2012. E-cigarettes represent a more than $2 billion global market, Reuters says, with the U.S. alone accounting for a quarter of it. They may even be outselling conventional cigarettes within 10 years.
That’s what led Philip Morris CEO Andre Calantzopoulos to announce a new line of products dubbed “Reduced-Risk,” which he plans to debut in the second half of 2014, according to Reuters. But while many people believe electronic smokes — cigarette-shaped tubes that vaporize a liquid containing nicotine — are healthier than the regular kind, the verdict is still out.
“A big issue is the lack of long-term scientific evidence to support the safety and effectiveness of e-cigarettes, prompting critics like the British Medical Association to warn of the dangers of their unregulated use,” Reuters says.
Regulators also haven’t determined whether they are a good way to help people quit, or whether they encourage nicotine addiction, Reuters says. In that survey of teens, more than three quarters of current e-cig users also said they smoke traditional cigarettes, but it’s not entirely clear whether the chicken or the egg came first.
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