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a relative novelty three years ago--are about to hit $1 billion in sales, according to Wells Fargo securities analysts.
While that's only 1 percent of sales of traditional cigarettes, the number of consumers who say they've tried e-smokes is growing fast. The sale of e-cigarettes totaled just $500 million last year.
According to the most recent survey by the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, in 2011 about 21 percent of adults who smoke traditional cigarettes said they had tried the electronic alternative, up from about 10 percent in 2010.
"Overall," says a CDC press release, "about 6 percent of all adults have tried e-cigarettes, with estimates nearly doubling from 2010."
"E-cigarette use is growing rapidly," said CDC director Tom Frieden in a February 2013 release announcing the survey's findings. "There is still we do not know about these products."
E-cigarettes, in their most popular form, look like conventional tobacco cigarettes. They do not, however, contain leaf tobacco and they do not burn. As described by CDC, they are battery-powered devices that provide inhaled doses of nicotine vapor and flavorings. Because they do not burn and do not produce smoke, their advocates consider them more socially acceptable than traditional cigarettes.
Their detractors do not. The Long Island Rail Road declared earlier this month that e-cigarettes violate LIRR's smoking ban, which declares it unlawful for railroad patrons to "burn a lighted cigarette, cigar, pipe or any other matter or substance which contains tobacco or any tobacco substitute."