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Amid Smoking Decline, Look Who's Still Lighting Up

Stashed in: Drugs!, Marketing, Addiction

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But Koval says companies like Reynolds and Lorillard know their market well.

"I think this merger, for instance, is very much about menthol," she says. "While menthol usage is declining with all cigarette usage, it's declining at a much slower rate, about half the rate, I believe, than regular-flavored cigarettes."

And because menthol, a mint-flavored additive, is popular among African-Americans, the companies focus ads and coupons there.

David Howard, a spokesman for R.J. Reynolds, a subsidiary of Reynolds American, acknowledges menthol is a factor in the merger. In the deal, Reynolds acquires Lorillard's Newport, the best-selling menthol cigarette and one of the few U.S. brands gaining market share. 

(there should be a special place in hell for cigarette marketers.)

Menthol. Sheesh. Naughty of them to make it so appealing. 

But Howard says the driving force is what he calls "smokeless" products.  "For R.J. Reynolds, the focus is on innovation and providing innovative, smoke-free alternatives for adult tobacco consumers to consider," Howard says.

Electronic cigarettes are a small but growing share of the market. Surprising some analysts, Reynolds will sell Lorillard's e-cigarette, Blu, to rival Imperial Tobacco Group. Instead, Reynolds is focusing on its own e-cigarette product, Vuse, that was rolled out nationally in June.

Howard says he expects the market for e-cigarettes, snuff and nicotine patches could grow as traditional cigarettes continue to fall out of favor.

They're just shifting the addiction.

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