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October 27, 2021

Why Did Cigarette Sales Rise in 2020 After Falling for 20 Years?

For the first time in 20 years, cigarette sales increased in 2020. That’s the conclusion of a new Federal Trade Commission report published yesterday.

Americans bought 203.7 billion cigarettes (about 10.2 billion packs) last year—an increase of 800 million cigarettes, or 0.4 percent. That breaks down to an average of about 300 packs a year for each of the approximately 30 million people who smoke, or a little less than a pack a day each.

Mainstream news outlets have focused on the coronavirus pandemic as the primary reason for the increase, but a more likely cause is the decline of the U.S. vaping market in recent years. There are multiple factors that have led to vaping declines:

Many of those factors led to price increases and reduced availability for vaping products. Economists have shown that cigarettes and vaping products are economic substitutes, meaning that a price increase in one causes a boost in sales of the other.

Vape flavor bans may have similar effects. A paper published earlier this year showed that high school smoking increased when a ban on flavored e-cigarettes took effect in San Francisco in 2019.

Smokers created vaping without any help from the tobacco industry or anti-smoking crusaders, and vapers have the right to keep innovating to help themselves. My goal is to provide clear, honest information about the challenges vaping faces from lawmakers, regulators, and brokers of disinformation. I recently joined the CASAA board, but my opinions aren’t necessarily CASAA’s, and vice versa. You can find me on Twitter @whycherrywhy
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Stuart Mark Hallman
Stuart Mark Hallman
2 months ago

The mail ban put my main connection out of business, Juicemafia. That’s not a fact but a suspicion. I was happy with my vape products from them for 10 years. Then poof their gone. Now, I am on a endless search for a supplier that can provide me with a similar product that satisfies me for my daily vape. Trouble is, they are rare as hens teeth these days. I vape at 18mg, which is difficult to find. I prefer a smooth tobacco with no aftertaste. Cigarettes were killing me, vaping saved me. A signature on order arrival is no… Read more »

Don Yount
Don Yount
3 months ago

Nailed it Jim, I own a vape store in middle Tn, the federal Government and state governments have no reguard for your health or wellbeing. Only what fills their pockets up. If vaping continues more than likely big tobacco will have it all. Then every teenager in the country will have access to it at your local convenience store along with cigarettes. They dang sure have never been able to buy vape in my store even before it was regulated

2 months ago

I am confused about the math. 800 million cigarettes is 40 million packs for 30 million smokers, so isn’t this about 1.3 packs per smoker, for the year? Where does 300 additional packs a year come from?

2 months ago
Reply to  Jim McDonald

Why is two extra cigarettes a month sparking discussions like “people had more opportunity to smoke” or “increased pressures against vaping”? It seems to be as significant as if people drove 2 miles a month less in 2020. However, a quick search shows Americans drove a quarter to half a trillion miles less in 2020. With about a quarter of a billion licensed drivers, that’s about a thousand miles less per person for the year or 80 miles a month. That’s significant. While cigarettes and vaping may be economic substitutes for each other, I am not sure if such a… Read more »

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