There is no doubt that RJ Reynolds knows the tobacco business but does that mean that RJ Vapor knows the e-vapor business? Only time will tell but you cannot deny that RJ Vapor has access to resources that most enterprises can only dream of. RJ Reynolds is a Big Tobacco company with serious clout. They currently possess a 25% market share of the US tobacco business not to mention their global interests. In the US alone there are still 40 million smokers, a fact that many anti-ecig people seem to ignore, and that means that RJ has 10 million plus customers in the US alone.
That market share is about to increase when the finishing touches are completed and the RJ Reynolds purchase of Lorillard becomes finalized.
There was some speculation that the RJ Reynolds and Lorillard purchase may not pass anti-trust regulations because of concerns about RJ Reynolds and Altria controlling the majority of the tobacco industry. At this point, however, it looks like Reynolds can tuck Lorillard into its massive portfolio and look forward to smooth sailing.
It seems as though the momentum may be with the argument that a competition between two large corporations is more effective driving competition than several smaller competitors going up against Altria alone. This argument is supported by statistical data and appears to satisfy any anti-trust concerns. Reynolds is clearly well position to exercise influence in the tobacco business. As the e-cigarette industry began taking hold a few years ago, RJ Reynolds, and other Big Tobacco companies, voiced strong opposition but they have also seen the writing on the wall.
Despite strenuous efforts from special interests, the e-cig industry has forged ahead. This is simply a case where the product is so good and in so much demand, that despite the attempted vilification, smokers want a less harmful option and they are demanding it. RJ, Altria and others understood that the old axiom held true, “If you can’t beat’em – join’em.” Big Tobacco began wading in to the e-cig industry and with their resources and marketing, they have made a big splash.
Vuse And The Electronic Vapor Business
When Reynolds and Lorillard were hammering out the details of the purchase, conventional wisdom would seemingly dictate that Lorillard’s prize e-vapor property, the world famous Blu E-Cig, would be a wanted asset. Not so.
RJ Reynolds had already developed its very own e-cigarette brand, the Vuse Digital Vapor Device. Reynolds is so confident in the Vuse that they did not want Blu Cigs. Blu ended up being sold off to Imperial Tobacco.
Reynolds developed RJ Vapor to manage the growing e-vapor segment of its business. RJ Vapor believes that Vuse (a blend of the words “vapor” and “use”) redefines vaping. RJ Vapor’s Fred Ampolini, a man with an impressive electrical and computer engineering background, stresses that the Vuse microprocessor regulates the battery so consistently that Vuse boasts what RJ refers to as “the perfect puff”. The processor also detects when the e-liquid runs dry and simply stops any further battery activations hence solving the problem of dry puffs and damaging e-cig parts.
Former RJ Vapor president Stefanie Cordisco stated that the Vuse will be a game changer and represented the best tasting, most satisfying e-cigarette on the market.
These types of claims are common for new products taking to the market and Vuse certainly has the resources to get their word out. If you are an experienced vaper and you are reading these words, then you know that Vuse and RJ Vapor have a lot to learn about the e-cig industry.
While it is true that the majority of the 500 plus e-cigarette brands available today are generic products comprised of cheap parts and thrown together haphazardly, it is also true that there are a number of high quality e-cig brands that are leading the way in both technology and performance.
Brands like Apollo E-Cig, Green Smoke, Halo and others have been using microprocessors to regulate battery performance for years. These brands also know the vaping world inside and out. RJ Vapor is a force to be reckoned with but they do have a lot to learn about the e-vapor biz.
Ampolini also promotes the idea that Vuse is an American made e-cigarette unlike most, which are made in China. He is correct in a sense, but there are certainly many e-cig brands with American roots and production.
Full Disclosure: Vuse
The fact is that Vuse is actually far behind the progress curve of the highest quality e-cigarette brands. A prime example is the fact that Vuse does not even disclose its nicotine content. By the way, that nicotine content is 48 mg and is the only option offered by Vuse.
For any smoker looking for an alternative, their individual needs have to be considered. Choosing the right nicotine level is probably the most important aspect of switching to vaping for the purposes of escaping tobacco.
Just a quick mention about that 48 mg nicotine level. That is far too high for most smokers and you actually run the risk of becoming more nicotine dependent with Vuse. A pack per day smoker should be trying 18 to 24 mg.
Brands like Reynolds Vuse and The Altria Group’s MarkTen enjoy massive distribution. Both companies have the ability to put their products on the same shelves where smokers buy their cigarettes. It is a huge advantage but the downside is that like most retail e-cigarette brands they do not offer any options.
You have two flavors and one, undisclosed, nicotine level. Vuse also charges $3.00 each for refill cartridges. If you compare Vuse reviews to those of other leading brands you cannot help but notice the difference, particularly in the area of customer options. The leading e-cig brands offer several nicotine levels and many flavors.
Take a company like White Cloud Cigarettes for example. White Cloud is a USA e-cigarette company that is recognized as a top employer and has recently moved cartridge production to its Florida headquarters. White Cloud also offers six different nicotine levels and around 30 different flavors.
The bottom line is that while Vuse may dominate from a business perspective, it has a long way to go as a potential smoking alternative.
RJ Vapor Business
Last year, RJ Vapor rolled out the Vuse in test markets in Colorado and Utah. In short order, they gained market share in both states.
With a successful test behind them, the nation wide rollout began in earnest. By the fall of 2014, Vuse was available in all 50 states.
RJ Vapor had the competitive advantage of putting Vuse on store shelves giving them massive visibility to consumers. They also began a media campaign with national TV advertising. The Vuse is fully in business.
Up until 2013, retail sales of e-cigarettes had been growing exponentially. That trend, however, was slightly interrupted in 2014. The growth had slowed down. The problem could be traced to the emergence of e-cigarette tank systems and vape shops. E-cig tanks systems such as the eGo style e-cigarettes typically generate more vapor than the cigalikes, e-cigs that look like cigarettes.
In 2014, the number of vape shops increased almost ten fold to more than 30,000 vapor stores. Vapers began gravitating toward the social aspects of vaping.
The combination of vape shops and the demand for massive vapor clouds from more powerful electronic cigarettes led to a reduction in growth for companies like Blu, Vuse and Logic. As a result, RJ Vapor has called for a ban on e-cig tank systems. They have cited the dangers of tank systems and incidents of nicotine poisoning as reasons that e-cig tanks and e-liquid sales should be banned.
The transparency of their concern may be obvious but Big Tobacco does have influence with key policy makers. Will they be successful in instigating a ban of e-cig tank systems? It seems unlikely but you never know. Blu E-cig has developed a closed tank system that they have called the Blu Plus. Like a typical e-cig tank system, the Blu Plus uses an atomizer and wick to heat more e-liquid faster giving the user more vapor. You can be sure that Big Tobacco is watching the sales figures for the Blu Plus.
Could it be possible that Big Tobacco will successfully achieve a ban on open e-cig tank systems and be in a position to dominate cigalikes and tank systems? This seems to be their goal and they are at work toward achieving those goals. You are sure to hear about more and more studies about the dangers of high temperature vaping and the risks of handling e-liquid.
RJ Vapor may not have mastered the electronic cigarette but they certainly know how to work their way around business and regulations. They have cash and they have influence. RJ Vapor is going to be a player in the e-cigarette industry. The vaping community has no love for Big Tobacco, for obvious reasons, and they may wish that companies like RJ Reynolds would leave e-cigarettes alone but the fact is that they are huge, powerful and not going anywhere.
For many vapers and many smokers looking for an alternative, their wish is to see RJ Vapor focus on making quality e-cigarettes. They know that RJ Vapor is here to stay and will wield serious influence but if only they could dedicate some of those resources to making better e-cigs rather than just trying to control the market place.