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In This State, the Gloves Have Come Off in the War Against Tobacco

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Though there is improvement, there are still concerns

While clear progress is still being made against adult smoking rates, some 42 million adults continue to smoke, including a number of younger adults and high school students, which aren't included in the above figures. One of the biggest challenges regulators have faced is how to discourage teens and young adults from trying cigarettes when the product is often portrayed as being "cool" during a period when they are highly impressionable. Per the U.S. Department of Health in 2012, some 95% of currently smokers in their 30's had tried their first cigarette by the age of 21.

A University of Hawaii study of ninth and tenth graders suggests this figure could be closer to 30%, as noted by . The point being that students and young adults are turning to new devices to get nicotine, and the long-term safety of those devices isn't yet known.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A University of Hawaii study of ninth and tenth graders suggests this figure could be closer to 30%, as noted by The Washington Post . The point being that students and young adults are turning to new devices to get nicotine, and the long-term safety of those devices isn't yet known.

This is just one of many punches for Big Tobacco

For Big Tobacco, the hits just keep on coming. These companies have been suffering from declining tobacco sales for some time, and now they could be threatened by Hawaii and potentially more states jumping on board with raising the legal age to purchase smoking products to 21.

Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse, Facebook.

A more recent concern for the industry is what the Food and Drug Administration could do with its new method of attracting current and former smokers: electronic cigarettes. If the FDA decides to label electronic cigarettes and their liquids as tobacco products, they would then fall under the strict safety and manufacturing guidelines of the FDA.

Right now, there is little known about the liquids being used in electronic cigarettes, and recent studies -- such as the one conducted by National Jewish Health that discovered liquid vaping solution leads to inflammation of epithelial cells in users' airways and a higher risk of respiratory viral infections -- have suggested electronic cigarettes may not be as safe as they're perceived.

This would be worrisome for Reynolds American and Lorillard , which are in the process of trying to gain approval from the Federal Trade Commission to merge. Although Lorillard is the company behind Blu, the most dominant electronic cigarette brand in the U.S. by a long shot, the merger between these two companies meant the divestiture of Blu and both companies instead focusing on Reynolds American's Vuse brand. Tougher FDA regulations could halt any chance Vuse has of taking off or closing the market share gap between it and Blu.

A grim reality for Big Tobacco

Hawaii's looming bill provides one more point of evidence that the future of the U.S. tobacco industry, including its smoking alternatives, isn't very bright.

For now, tobacco companies such as Lorillard and Reynolds American are able to use the addictive qualities of nicotine to raise prices despite declining cigarette volumes in order to continue growing their profits. However, tobacco producers can only boost pricing so much before consumers push back and begin to smoke considerably less.

With regulations surrounding electronic cigarettes looking as if they'll tighten in the coming years, it's looking as if your best bet as an investor is going to be to keep your money parked far away from U.S. tobacco producers.

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The article In This State, the Gloves Have Come Off in the War Against Tobacco originally appeared on Fool.com.

Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong , track every pick he makes under the screen name TrackUltraLong , and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle @TMFUltraLong .The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days . We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy .

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