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RICHMOND, Va. -- Altria Group Inc. is stepping outside its usual comfort zone and getting ready to introduce its first tobacco-less nicotine product, Verve, to the marketplace. The company will sell Verve in more than 50 stores in its home state of Virginia, but has not decided on a national rollout at this time.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the tobacco giant will launch the non-dissolving, lozenge-shaped nicotine disc by early June. Altria is probably best known for being the maker of the Marlboro cigarette brand -- part of its Philip Morris USA family.
This move is just the latest by the big three tobacco companies to capture dollars back from declining cigarette sales. R.J. Reynolds Inc. has already gone to market with Camel Sticks, Camel Strips and Camel Orbs, while Lorillard Inc. is acquiring blu ecigs for $135 million, as CSNews Online previously reported.
Instead of containing tobacco, the chewable, mint-flavored Verve will provide nicotine extracted from tobacco, the WSJ report noted, adding that Altria is betting that this approach will permit it to market the product with milder health-warning labels than those affixed to cigarettes and smokeless tobacco.
"I don't think anyone's found the magic smoke-free product,'' said John R. Nelson, Altria's chief technology officer.
A Verve disc releases nicotine over roughly 15 minutes as a user sucks or chews on it. It doesn't require spitting to avoid swallowing tobacco. But the disc of cellulose fibers and a polymer also doesn't dissolve, so users will have to throw it away after use, the news outlet reported.
The new product will be sold in a package of 16 discs, each containing about 1.5 milligrams of nicotine, which is less than many other smokeless products contain. It will sell for about $3 in stores in Virginia, where a pack of Marlboro cigarettes retails for around $4.50. The product will be sold to adults only.