The Pandemic Reversed a 20-Year Cigarette Sales Trend

There was a slight uptick last year
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 27, 2021 2:12 PM CDT
The Pandemic Reversed a 20-Year Cigarette Sales Trend
   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – The pandemic wasn't good for America's lungs in more ways than one. CNN reports that cigarette sales ticked up for the first time in two decades, per the FTC's annual Cigarette Report. The increase was a nominal one—just 0.4%—but it marks a reversal in the downward trend we've been seeing since 2000. In 2020, some 203.7 billion cigarettes were sold to wholesalers and retailers in America, up by 8 million from 2019. Smokeless tobacco sales also inched up, from 126.0 million pounds in 2019 to 126.9 million pounds in 2020.

The FTC report didn't provide any theories on the uptick, but CNN reports the rise aligns with other changes in consumer behavior during the pandemic, such as increased consumption of alcohol. NPR flags an April 2020 report from Bloomberg that noted Q1 sales for Marlboro-maker Altria were up due in part to "bulk purchases—what the company calls 'pantry loading,'" suggesting consumers were stocking up on more than toilet paper. But NPR reports the trajectory isn't likely to stay upward. Nielsen data suggests that is the case, with Bloomberg reporting that for the four-week period ending Oct. 9, cigarette volumes were down 9.4% as compared to the same time last year. (Read more cigarettes stories.)

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