Government report shows smoking increased for the first time in 20 years

The Federal Trade Commission is reporting that cigarette sales have jumped for the first time in 20 years.

According to the agency, the number of cigarettes sold to wholesalers and retailers nationwide increased from 202.9 billion in 2019 to 203.7 billion in 2020, and the volume of smokeless tobacco product sales increased from 126.0 million pounds in 2019 to 126.9 million pounds in 2020.

Also of note, menthol flavored smokeless tobacco products comprised 54.5 percent of revenue generated by sales; tobacco flavored smokeless products made up 43.4 percent; and fruit flavored smokeless tobacco products comprised 2.5 percent of that revenue.

It should be said that this increase came after the FDA banned mint-flavored vaping products, claiming they led to a spike in teen vaping. Vape company JUUL announced it would stop selling its popular mint products ahead of the ban, though it still sold menthol flavors. However, the latter have become increasingly hard to find.

At the time, critics of the ban — including Juul, which eventually complied — had stated doing so would have people turning back to cigarettes. 

In fact, a Yale School of Public Health study showed that when flavored vape products were banned in San Francisco, youths began smoking combustible — traditional — cigarettes. 

Abigail Friedman, the study’s author and an assistant professor of health policy at the Yale School of Public Heath, noted, “While neither smoking cigarettes nor vaping nicotine are safe per se, the bulk of current evidence indicates substantially greater harms from smoking, which is responsible for nearly one in five adult deaths annually. Even if it is well-intentioned, a law that increases youth smoking could pose a threat to public health.”