Smoking has made comeback as the stress of the coronavirus pandemic takes its toll — with cigarette sales rebounding in 2020.
Sales rose by 0.4 percent last year — reversing a decades-long steady decline — as people in lockdown lit up more often and vapers switched back to tobacco over health concerns, according to data released by Marlboro maker Altria Group Inc.
Bored Americans who weren’t able to travel or dine out regularly also had more disposable income to spend on smoke sticks, the tobacco-maker said.
An FDA spokeswoman said changes in cigarette smoking can’t be tied to one specific event, but admitted the pandemic has played a role.
“Covid-19 has created a drastic change in daily life, including increased stress and anxiety, that may contribute to a smaller-than-expected reduction in cigarette sales,” she told the Wall Street Journal.
Studies have also shown that the ease of smoking at home during the pandemic has led many to light up more — despite smokers having a higher risk of contracting the deadly virus.
“I can’t take 10 breaks a day” at the office, Texas software developer Bisher Kunbargi told the paper. At home, “I can have a cigarette whenever I want.”
In addition, some e-cigarette smokers have also switched back to traditional cigarettes because of increased taxes, bans on flavored vaping products and confusion about the health effects of vaping, the Journal said.
While government health officials maintain vaping is dangerous, puffing on e-cigs poses fewer health risks than cigarette smoking, which contributes to nearly half a million deaths per year in the US.
A survey by Euromonitor in early 2020, found that 73 percent of Americans still falsely believed vaping products were as unhealthy or more unhealthy as cigarettes, the Journal reported.
Since the Surgeon General’s groundbreaking report on smoking and health in 1964, the adult smoking rate in the US has slid from 43 percent to 14 percent in 2019, according to government statistics.
Meanwhile, Altria Group said projections for cigarette smoking in 2021 would depend on the success of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, and behavioral shifts among vaccinated individuals.