Tobacco company Philip Morris (PM), which sells Marlboro, L&M, Parliament and other well-known brands around the globe, is pouring money into a new aerosol-based delivery technology it says will make smoking less unhealthy.

On May 26, it said it purchased the global rights to market a technology that avoids burning tobacco or wrapping paper.

Jed Rose, an inventor of the new technology, said in a Morris news release that the company will offer over time an alternative to traditional cigarettes, “thereby reducing smokers’ exposure to carcinogens and other harmful smoke constituents.”

Morris is reacting to the growing number of smokers who use a so-called “electronic cigarette” that injects nicotine in a mistlike form into the user’s mouth and lungs.

Morris boasts an 83 Earnings Per Share Rating, second highest within the nine-company tobacco industry group. The rating takes into account both earnings growth over the past three to five years as well as in recent quarters.

In both measures, Morris has delivered steady expansion. Over the past seven years, earnings declined just twice annually — down 4% in 2007 and off 3% in 2009.

Earnings rose 17% in 2010 to $3.87 and are seen jumping 19% to $4.59 this year, according to Thomson Reuters.

On a quarterly basis, EPS have grown 8% to 22% from year-ago levels over the past six periods. The average increase was 17%. Sales lifted 2% to 17% over the same six-quarter time frame.

Asia is a big driver of revenue growth, as cigarette shipments in Q1 jumped 14% thanks in large part to demand in Indonesia and what Morris calls a “favorable impact” of its merger and acquisition activity in the Philippines.

On April 11, the company paid a quarterly dividend of 64 cents a share to shareholders on record as of March 24. Annualized, the payout gives the stock a yield of 3.7%.

Morris bought back 22.2 million common shares in Q1 for $1.36 billion. It has 1.78 billion shares outstanding.

In the week ended Feb. 18, Morris cleared a base with a 60.24 buy point.