FTC Report Shows U.S. Cigarette… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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FTC Report Shows U.S. Cigarette Sales Fell to Under 200 Billion for First Time in 2021 and Have Dropped by 70% Since 1981

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
January 31, 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Federal Trade Commission’s latest report on cigarette sales and marketing, released Monday, shows that cigarette sales by the largest U.S. cigarette companies fell to 190.2 billion in 2021, the first time cigarette sales have fallen below 200 billion and a drop of 70% from a high of 636.5 billion in 1981. The 6.7% drop from 2020 to 2021 shows that the long decline in cigarettes sales has resumed after a small upward blip in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The huge, continuing drop in cigarette sales is one of our nation’s greatest public health success stories and reflects the enormous declines in smoking rates among both youth and adults in recent decades. It will pay off in improved health and countless lives saved for generations to come.

These declines also underscore the proven effectiveness of strategies that have been implemented to reduce tobacco use, including increased tobacco taxes and prices, comprehensive smoke-free laws, well-funded prevention and cessation programs, hard-hitting mass media campaigns, and, more recently, state and local laws ending the sale of flavored tobacco products. It is noteworthy that the largest drops in cigarette sales occurred in 1999, after cigarette prices were raised significantly as a result of the state tobacco settlements, and in 2009, when the largest-ever federal cigarette tax increase and numerous state cigarette tax increases were implemented. The evidence couldn’t be clearer that significantly increasing the price of cigarettes is one of the most effective ways to reduce smoking. The real path to a smoke-free future is to fully implement these proven strategies, not through the false promises of the tobacco industry.

It is especially critical that the FDA swiftly finalize and implement its proposed rules to prohibit menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars and that states and cities continue to crack down on flavored products as well. The FTC report shows the menthol share of the cigarette market has grown steadily and now constitutes 37% of the market, more than double the 16% in 1963. This is no accident. It is the direct result of the tobacco industry’s aggressive and targeted marketing of menthol cigarettes, especially to Black Americans. The FDA has found that menthol cigarettes are more addictive, easier for kids to start and harder for smokers to quit. Banning menthol cigarettes is the critical next step to continue driving down smoking rates and reduce tobacco-related health disparities in the United States, and the FDA must act without delay.

The FTC report is also a reminder that the tobacco companies continue to spend huge sums to promote their deadly and addictive products in a desperate effort to protect sales and profits. In 2021, the top tobacco companies spent $8.6 billion – about $1 million every hour – to market cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products, the bulk of it on price discounts that make tobacco products more affordable and appealing to kids.

Despite our progress, tobacco use remains the number one cause of preventable death in the United States, killing over 480,000 people and costing over $241 billion in health care expenditures each year. Our enormous progress leaves no doubt that we can win the fight against tobacco, but only if policymakers at every level implement the proven strategies that have achieved so much already.