By Weston Blasi
For the first time in two decades, cigarette sales in the U.S. increased .
According to the Federal Trade Commission’s Cigarette Report , 203.7 billion cigarettes were sold in 2020, up from 202.9 billion in 2019 — an increase of 0.4%.
Smoking rates have steadily declined since 2000, and are about 66% lower than they were 50 years ago, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .
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The report did not say whether the COVID pandemic was the reason for the increase in cigarette sales last year, but the rise in smoking rates could be attributed to the increased stress and depression rates related to the pandemic, as sales of alcohol and smokeless tobacco went up in 2020 as well.
Research has shown that cigarettes can actually increase stress and tension, though, after the immediate sense of relaxation that comes from smoking, according to the Mental Health Foundation .
The FTC’s Cigarette Report also found that ad and promotional spending from tobacco companies increased to $7.84 billion in 2020 compared with $7.62 billion the previous year.
“The largest single category of these expenditures in 2020 was price discounts paid to cigarette retailers in order to reduce the price of cigarettes to customers,” the report states.
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Data from the report was compiled through filings from four major tobacco companies including Altria Group /zigman2/quotes/208895754/composite MO +1.13% , ITG Holdings USA, Reynolds American and Vector Group Ltd /zigman2/quotes/206349225/composite VGR +2.11% .
According to the CDC’s website, “cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease, disability, and death in the U.S. Cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year including more than 41,000 deaths resulting from secondhand smoke exposure.”