Despite what seems like a constant web of negativity surrounding the tobacco industry, shares of some of its titans including Altria (MO) - Get Report , Philip Morris International (PM) - Get Report , and Reynolds American (RAI) have all seen impressive gains over their histories. 

Shares of Altria have climbed over 11,215.28% since first going public in 1978. Shares of Philip Morris International, spun off from Altria, have surged over 133% since going public in 2008. Reynolds shares had soared over 1,509.85% since going public in 1999, before being bought by British American Tobacco (BTI) - Get Report in 2016.

British American shares have surged over 686% since going public in 1998. 

But, the recent war waged against big tobacco from lawmakers and the public has forced an entire industry to go on the defensive and innovate new products to stay alive.

One critical development in that fight is electronic cigarettes, more commonly referred to as e-cigs or e-cigarettes. The act of smoking, or vaping, these devices has presented big tobacco companies with a new opportunity for profit.

For a better understanding of the evolution of cigarettes to e-cigarettes, here is a look back at some of the landmark moments which have reshaped the industry.

Millennials and Vaping: 5 Things to Know

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