US smoking habits pick back up amid pandemic, data shows

Over the last decade, U.S. cigarette sales had fallen significantly, but amid the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the decline in sales came to a halt, The Wall Street Journal reported Jan. 28. 

New data from Altria Group, the country's largest tobacco company, shows last year's cigarette sales surpassed those of 2015, a surprising find given sharp drops in gas prices that year, which gave consumers more disposable income, WSJ reports. The data shows Altria's 2020 sales rose to $6.3 billion in the quarter ended Dec. 31 compared to $6 billion in 2019 — a 4.9 percent increase, according to WSJ. 

The company attributed last year's increase in cigarette sales to people having more time to spend at home and more money to spend on cigarettes as a result of not spending as much on leisure activities. 

Health concerns associated with e-cigarettes may have also prompted some vapers to switch back to cigarettes. In 2017, e-cigarette sales took off when the Juul vaporizer came out before falling in 2019 when the CDC published a report warning of a lung illness linked to vaping products. While the condition was later linked to vitamin E oil in marijuana vaping products, perceptions of e-cigarette safety haven't changed, and more people have switched back to cigarettes despite public health officials warning that smoking cigarettes poses more risk than e-cigarette use, according to WSJ. 

Brian King, PhD, deputy director of the CDC's Office of Smoking and Health, told WSJ that adults using e-cigarettes as an alternative to smoking cigarettes shouldn't go back to smoking, and should instead consider FDA-approved smoking cessation medications. 

More articles on public health:
Cases fall 30% since January peak; most pregnant women shouldn't get Moderna vaccine, WHO says — 8 COVID-19 updates
16 states where COVID-19 is spreading fastest, slowest: Jan. 28
COVID-19 test positivity falls in every region, age group: 4 CDC findings


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