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Cigarette Makers Turn to E-Cigs to Fire Up Profits

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Here’s a burning question for the tobacco industry: How do you pump up profits when cigarette sales are falling?  The answer, as in so many other industries, may begin with an “e”.

Marlboro maker Altria Group, the largest cigarette manufacturer in the U.S., says it will introduce its own version of e-cigarettes later this year.

The company will be playing catch-up -- Lorillard already has its blu eCigs brand, and Reynolds American is planning to expand sales of its Vuse brand, which was recently test-marketed.

Electronic cigarettes work by heating liquid nicotine in a disposable cartridge and creating a vapor that smokers can then inhale.  They are powered by batteries.

An industry research firm says sales of e-cigs are expected to double this year compared with 2012.  They’re usually cheaper than regular cigarettes and may be less harmful, according to scientists.

Altria says traditional cigarette sales declined again in this year's first quarter.

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