Taking Up the Cigarette Slack

Big Tobacco isn’t as close to its last gasp as the decline in cigarette sales might suggest. A Harvard School of Public Health study (as summarized on the HealthScout Web site) finds that a rise in sales of non-cigarette tobacco products has taken up some of the slack.

Analyzing federal data, the study found an 18 percent decline in cigarette sales between 2000 and 2007, from 21.1 billion packs to 17.4 billion. During that same period, though, there was a rise in sales of moist snuff, roll-your-own tobacco and small cigars, equivalent to 1.1 billion packs of cigarettes. Moist snuff accounted for the biggest share of this increase.

The study points to cost as a factor in this trend, as the non-cigarette products are generally cheaper than cigarettes. For instance, “The weekly cost for a typical user of a premium moist-snuff brand is 55 percent less than for a typical cigarette smoker.” That’s partly because federal and state taxes for such products are much lower than the levies on cigarettes.