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Why did cigarette sales rise in 2021 after falling over the last 16 years?

Cigarette sales rise

Cigarette sales climbed in 2021 for the first time in 13 years. This is the finding of a new Federal Trade Commission report, which was released Tuesday.

This year, Americans purchased 203.7 billion cigarettes (approximately 10.2 billion packs), an increase of 800 million cigarettes, or 0.4 percent. That equates to nearly 300 cigarettes per year for each of the approximately 30 million smokers, or slightly less than a pack each day.

The coronavirus pandemic has been widely reported as the primary cause of the rise, but a more reliable factor is the recent drop in the U.S. vaping market. Several reasons have contributed to the reduction in vaping:

  • During the overall post-2017 vaping moral panic, misinformation and disinformation about vaping spread.
  • Fear sparked by the 2019 “EVALI” lung injury outbreak, which was incorrectly attributed to nicotine vaping
  • Flavored vape restrictions were enacted across the state in 2019 and 2020.
  • Following the federal enactment of the Tobacco 21 bill, the FDA issued recommendations prohibiting the sale of the flavored pod- and cartridge-based vapes.
  • Many states are taxing e-cigarettes and e-liquid.
  • Closures of vape shops due to sales losses and FDA rules ambiguity.

Many of these reasons contributed to price rises and decreased product availability for vaping items. Economists have demonstrated that cigarettes and vaping goods are economic substitutes, which means that a price increase in one increases sales of the other.

Bans on vape flavors may have a similar impact. A study published earlier this year found that after San Francisco banned flavored e-cigarettes in 2019, high school smoking soared.