Philip Morris to introduce e-cigarette

RICHMOND, Va. Philip Morris International (PM) said Wednesday it plans to enter the growing electronic cigarette business late next year and accelerate the launch of its reduced-risk products.

The seller of Marlboro and other cigarette brands overseas is joining many tobacco companies venturing into smokeless tobacco and other nicotine products to diversify beyond the declining traditional cigarette business as tax increases, health concerns, smoking bans and stigma cut into demand.

Electronic cigarettes are battery-powered devices that heat a liquid nicotine solution, creating vapor that users inhale. The category has grown from thousands of users in 2006 to several million worldwide.

Philip Morris International's first foray into the electronic cigarette business will be similar to current products on the market but will offer an "an improved taste," CEO Andre Calantzopoulos said Wednesday at the Morgan Stanley Global Consumer Conference in New York.

Company executives in July had dismissed electronic cigarettes, saying they aren't a product that's very close to a traditional cigarette and said it was "much more the phenomena of the price than anything else."

The company is developing products that heat tobacco in a cigarette with a controlled heating mechanism or an aerosol nicotine-delivery system. It plans to pilot test its next-generation products late next year and launch a product that heats tobacco instead of burning it in 2015, ahead of its previously expected launch between 2016 and 2017.

Philip Morris International, based in New York and Switzerland, is the world's second-biggest cigarette seller behind state-controlled China National Tobacco Corp.

Altria Group Inc. in Richmond, Virginia, the owner of Philip Morris USA, spun off Philip Morris International as a separate company in 2008. Altria is the largest U.S. cigarette seller.

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