Decline in cigarette smoking offset by increase in cigars, snuff and other tobacco products

June 10, 2008

While trends in cigarette smoking and sales have declined in the U.S. for the past decade, sales of non-cigarette tobacco products have been on the rise. Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health, led by Professor Greg Connolly, director of the Tobacco Control Research Program at HSPH, and Hillel Alpert, research associate in the program, sought to compare trends in sales of all tobacco products in the U.S. and found that 30% of the recent decline in cigarette sales may be offset by the robust sale of small cigars, snuff and roll-your-own products. Thus, the apparent magnitude of overall decline in tobacco use in the U.S. may be illusory.

The comparative research of tobacco sales of all kinds across the past decade is published in the June 11, 2008 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). It is the first study to examine concurrent sales of cigarettes and other tobacco products.

The major factor in the apparent switch to non-cigarette products by smokers appears to be price -- with the federal tax on other forms of tobacco 1/10th that of cigarettes -- and the heavy attention given to campaigning against cigarette use but not against other forms of tobacco products in recent years. Price increases have proven to be the single most effective form of curbing tobacco use in the U.S. population. According to the National Cancer Institute, in the U.S. smoking-related illnesses account for an estimated 438,000 deaths each year. An estimated 25.9 million men (23.9 percent) and 20.7 million women (18.1 percent) in the U.S. are smokers, according to the American Heart Association.

"Tobacco kills, no matter if it's in a cigarette, a cigar, a snuff can or a roll-your-own," said Connolly. "Lower federal and state taxes on these non-cigarette products is keeping tobacco addiction "affordable" and encouraging preventable disease and death. All forms of tobacco should be taxed equally, and state campaigns to curb tobacco use should address this loophole for death."

Since 1998, tobacco sales in the U.S. have declined by 2% a year, which has been hailed as an indicator that smoking itself is on the decline. Overall, cigarette sales declined 18% from 21.1 billion packs in 2000 to 17.4 billion packs in 2007. During the same interval sales of other tobacco products increased by 1.10 billion cigarette pack equivalents (CPE's) an estimate based on the products' tobacco and nicotine content (714 million moist snuff, 256 million roll-your-own tobacco, 130 million small cigars). Figures were obtained from The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and from The Tax Burden on Tobacco report. Nicotine ratings were obtained from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health filed by tobacco manufacturers under Massachusetts law.

"Cigarette companies are responding to the changing pattern of consumption," write the researchers, "by entering other tobacco markets, including acquisition of major U.S. moist snuff manufacturer Conwood by R.J. Reynolds, and by marketing new snuff and snus products to attract new smokers and new tobacco users." Snus is a moist tobacco powder placed under the upper lip.

"Cigars, roll-your-own and smokeless tobacco products are generally priced lower than cigarettes," they write. "The weekly cost for a typical user of a premium moist-snuff brand is 55% less than for a typical cigarette smoker. State and federal cigarette taxation policies appear to have been effective in reducing smoking, but small cigars and roll-your-own tobacco are taxed at 5% to 10% the rate of cigarettes, resulting in prices much less than an equivalent pack of cigarettes. These findings should be considered in future policy decisions meant to curb smoking."

Source: Harvard School of Public Health

Explore further: San Francisco to ban sales of vaping flavored liquid

Related Stories

San Francisco to ban sales of vaping flavored liquid

June 21, 2017
San Francisco city supervisors unanimously approved a measure Tuesday that bans the sale of flavored nicotine-laced liquid used in electronic cigarettes and flavored tobacco products—with city supervisors saying nicotine ...

Busting the myth that roll-your-own tobacco has fewer additives

June 9, 2017
My last column, reported on the huge growth of Australians using roll-your-own tobacco in the past few years. Because of a tobacco tax anomaly, which will end in September this year, many smokers have migrated to roll-your-own ...

Young adults' perceptions of marijuana, cigarette and e-cigarette safety may be based on mistaken beliefs

May 5, 2017
When young people consider the potential harm of tobacco and marijuana products, their assessment may be based on mistaken beliefs about the risks of various ingredients and methods of ingesting the substances, according ...

How Big Tobacco is losing the fight to stop plain packaging of cigarettes

May 19, 2017
You may already have seen the tobacco packs currently sold in the UK: a dark, murky green colour with large graphic health-warning images and scary messages aimed at informing current and potential smokers about the devastating ...

Marijuana legalization raises the need for more research

June 21, 2017
At a Paul McCartney concert at San Francisco's AT&T Park in 2010, Matthew Springer, PhD, wasn't shocked to be surrounded by a haze of marijuana smoke. He was, however, amazed that the audience tolerated it without complaint.

Colombia bans sales of loose cigarettes, tobacco adverts

July 21, 2011
A ban on sales of loose cigarettes and tobacco advertising went into effect Thursday in Colombia, the health ministry said.

Recommended for you

Blowing smoke? E-cigarettes might help smokers quit

July 26, 2017
People who used e-cigarettes were more likely to kick the habit than those who didn't, a new study found.

Brain disease seen in most football players in large report

July 25, 2017
Research on 202 former football players found evidence of a brain disease linked to repeated head blows in nearly all of them, from athletes in the National Football League, college and even high school.

Safety of medical devices not often evaluated by sex, age, or race

July 25, 2017
Researchers at Yale and the University of California-San Francisco have found that few medical devices are analyzed to consider the influence of their users' sex, age, or race on safety and effectiveness.

Why you should consider more than looks when choosing a fitness tracker

July 25, 2017
A UNSW study of five popular physical activity monitors, including Fitbit and Jawbone models, has found their accuracy differs with the speed of activity, and where they are worn.

Dog walking could be key to ensuring activity in later life

July 24, 2017
A new study has shown that regularly walking a dog boosts levels of physical activity in older people, especially during the winter.

Study finds 275,000 calls to poison control centers for dietary supplement exposures from 2000 through 2012

July 24, 2017
U.S. Poison Control Centers receive a call every 24 minutes, on average, regarding dietary supplement exposures, according to a new study from the Center for Injury Research and Policy and the Central Ohio Poison Center, ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Velanarris
not rated yet Jan 12, 2009
It's because cigarettes are more expensive than the other forms of tobacco.

You can't legislate vice, only educate against it.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.