KERNERSVILLE—Tobacco production has dropped in North Carolina for decades, and as tobacco fields continue to shrink, a new type of cigarette is taking off.
They're called e-cigarettes, and they don't contain any tobacco. Executives are calling them a game changer.
"We at Reynolds American are proud to historically and currently be leading the transformation of the tobacco industry,” said Reynolds American President and CEO Daan Delen.
Winston-Salem-based RJ Reynolds debuted its 'Vuse' e-cigarette earlier this month. It produces water vapor instead of smoke.
Altria, the parent company of Phillip Morris, is set to release its own e-cigarette later this summer.
"A tobacco company's desire is to make profit. Not necessarily cigarettes, traditional or e-cigarettes, but profit,' said agricultural extension agent Tim Hambrick.
This year, e-cigarette sales are expected to top a billion dollars for the first time.
But lifelong tobacco farmer James Allen isn't convinced the trend is here to stay.
"I think it's a fad. I mean, if I want to go out and buy a mixed drink, I don't want them to not put alcohol in it,” he said.
Analysts, however, say e-cigarette sales could surpass the sale of traditional cigarettes within a decade.