New E-Cigarettes Announced By Marlboro-Maker Altria

America’s largest tobacco company announced plans today to start selling E-Cigarettes.

The Altria Group, the company that owns Philip Morris USA and sells Marlboro brand cigarettes, announced today that it was launching its own e-cigarettes line under the MarkTen brand.

Yahoo News reports that Altria is the last major tobacco company to enter the e-cigarette market. CEO Marty Barrington said that the company “spent a good deal of time studying the category and the business opportunity.”

According to CBS, several tobacco companies have seen their American customer base shrink as many smokers continue to quit. Nearly half of all smokers (about 45 million in America) try to quit each year and health campaigns have stopped many people in the United States from picking up the habit.

Market analyst Jack Russo said that E-Cigarettes will allow companies like Altria to grow their customer base in the United States. Altria can also appear like “the good guy” as E-Cigarettes are often used by people who are trying to quit smoking.

Russo said: “This industry is in decline, whether people want to admit it or not. (Altria can) look like the good guys for a change.”

Of course, that “good guy” image could be short-lived.

The FDA is expected to put down more regulations on E-cigarettes later this year and several people see the electronic nicotine devices as a gateway to real cigarettes.

E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that give smokes a bit of nicotine without many of the chemicals found in regular cigarettes. It also provides a vapor to give people the feeling of smoking.

The e-cigarette market is still miniscule compared to the cigarette market but it is growing. CBS notes that there were only few thousand users in 2006 and but now the industry boasts several million users. Analysts estimate that sales could hit $1 billion this year.

The MarkTen e-cigarettes, which will feature “Four Draw” technology, will be available this August.