According to this story on Marketwatch.com, a Hong Kong based company called Ryuan America, Inc. will premier its "electronic cigarette" today in 13 selected U.S. markets. The product will be unveiled nationwide on October 19th.
Like Hawaii, many areas around the world have banned smoking in public places, including bars and restaurants. Ryuan America's Chairman, Mr. Hon Lik, has invented a product that simulates the smoking experience, but without emitting the harmful second-hand smoke. (For now, it might also be a way around the law.)
The product is based on atomizing technology. The "cigarette" runs on a rechargeable battery and contains a cartridge which comes in nicotine and non-nicotine, as well as a variety of flavors. When you take a drag on the cigarette, a red LED lights up just as if cigarette paper was burning. The puff of "smoke" is actually not smoke at all, but water vapor. The product has not been evaluated by the FDA. Proponents claim that you will even be able to use this product on airplanes, (although I wouldn't want to be the first one to try it.)
The e-cigarettes will be sold through a $4 million Direct Response Television campaign launched by the Nathan and James group based in Nashville. They are the exclusive distributors of Ruyan products in America. An infomercial can be seen here, and will be shown in the 13 preliminary markets of Pittsburgh, PA; Portland, OR; Baltimore, MD; Cleveland, OH; Miami, FL; San Diego, CA; Hartford/New Haven, CN; Indianapolis, IN; Orlando, FL; Sacramento, CA; Denver, CO; St. Louis, MO. There are other brands on the market, primarily European.
Charley Memminger wrote about the e-cigarettes back on Oct. 5th. See his column here. Should be interesting to see whether this does catch fire as a product, how the anti-smoking organizations will respond, and whether new legislation will be attempted.