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Cigarette sales increased during 2020 for the first time in nearly two decades with 203.7B sold

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There’s reason to believe that this will only be a one-year blip, as the volume of cigarette sales fell 9.4 percent in a month-long period ending October 9. 

The maker of Marlboros, the Altria Group, has cited the pandemic as behind the increase.   

Chief Executive Billy Gifford said Americans spent less money on travel, gas and entertainment last year and that fewer social engagements but that led to more ‘tobacco-use occasions.’

Other reasons could include a decrease in vaping, as some may have learned about a mysterious lung illness that was linked to marijuana vaping products. That may have led people to return to regular cigarettes. 

Bans on flavored vaping and e-cigarette taxes may have also saw the return to more cigarette smoking, according to industry experts. 

Advertising on smokes also increased in 2020. Companies spent $7.84 billion, 88.5 percent of it on price discounts, in 2020, up 2.9 percent from $7.62 billion in 2019. 

Smoking wasn’t the only vice to see business increase in 2020. Liquor sales also went up, while smokeless tobacco – which includes chewing and dipping – sales rose to $4.82 billion from $4.53 billion in 2019.      

The volume of smokeless tobacco products sold also increased to 126.9 million pounds from 126.0 million pounds in 2019, according to the 2020 Smokeless Tobacco Report. 

The United States is the fourth largest tobacco-producing country in the world, following China, India, and Brazil. In 2018, two states – North Carolina and Kentucky – accounted for more than 70% of total tobacco cultivation.

The maker of Marlboros, the Altria Group, has cited the pandemic as behind the increase. Chief Executive Billy Gifford said Americans spent less money on travel, gas and entertainment and had fewer social outings, but that led to more 'tobacco-use occasions'

The maker of Marlboros, the Altria Group, has cited the pandemic as behind the increase. Chief Executive Billy Gifford said Americans spent less money on travel, gas and entertainment and had fewer social outings, but that led to more ‘tobacco-use occasions’

The United States is the fourth largest tobacco-producing country in the world, following China, India and Brazil

The United States is the fourth largest tobacco-producing country in the world, following China, India and Brazil

While the numbers increased in 2020, there could be bumps ahead, as the Biden administration announced its intent to ban menthol cigarettes in April

While the numbers increased in 2020, there could be bumps ahead, as the Biden administration announced its intent to ban menthol cigarettes in April

However, while the numbers increased in 2020, there may be problems lying ahead as the Biden administration announced its intent to ban menthol cigarettes in April.  

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has attempted several times to get rid of menthol but faced pushback from Big Tobacco, members of Congress and competing political interests in both the Obama and Trump administrations. 

Any menthol ban will take years to implement and will likely face legal challenges from tobacco companies.

Biden’s announcement is the result of a lawsuit filed by anti-smoking and medical groups last summer to force the FDA to finally make a decision on menthol, alleging that regulators had ‘unreasonably delayed’ responding to a 2013 petition seeking to ban the flavor.

New regulations would also ban menthol and fruity flavors from low-cost, small cigars, which are increasingly popular with young people, especially Black teens.

‘Banning menthol – the last allowable flavor – in cigarettes and banning all flavors in cigars will help save lives, particularly among those disproportionately affected by these deadly products,’ said Acting FDA Commissioner Dr Janet Woodcock in a statement. 

Health experts say that the menthol cigarette industry is to blame for high rates of smoking addiction and lung cancer among black Americans, but the ACLU and several other civil rights groups are concerned that criminalizing menthols will only lead to an increase in policing and incarceration of black people.

Health experts say that the menthol cigarette industry is to blame for high rates of smoking addiction and lung cancer among black Americans, but the ACLU and several other civil rights groups are concerned that criminalizing menthols will only lead to an increase in policing and incarceration of black people. 

The FDA promised to enact a ban on menthol cigarettes (pictured) within the next year, but a block on the flavored products would likely take years to actually go into effect

The FDA promised to enact a ban on menthol cigarettes (pictured) within the next year, but a block on the flavored products would likely take years to actually go into effect 

Between 1980 and 2018, menthol cigarettes alone led to 378,000 premature deaths in the U.S., a University of Michigan study published earlier this year estimates. 

And about 85 percent of black smokers prefer menthols, suggesting that a large share – if not a majority – of those deaths were among black Americans.  

‘Taken together, these policies will help save lives and improve the public health of our country as we confront the leading cause of preventable disease and death,’ Mitch Zeller, the FDA’s head of tobacco, said in a statement.

Menthol is the only cigarette flavor that was not banned under the 2009 law that gave the FDA authority over tobacco products, an exemption negotiated by industry lobbyists. The act did, though, instruct the agency to continue to weigh banning menthol.

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