Global Cigarette Sales Are Down

Consumers seeking nicotine find it elsewhere.

February 25, 2020

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Cigarette sales are on the decline worldwide, and in response, tobacco executives are spreading their bets more evenly across a range of cigarette alternatives, reports the Wall Street Journal.

At an annual industry meeting in Florida last week, tobacco producers, including Philip Morris and Altria, announced they’d balance their investments across several smokeless categories.

Today, consumers are getting their nicotine fix from a range of products, and more than two-fifths of nicotine users consume more than one product category, reports Imperial Brands. For example, cigarette smokers may use a vape pen in certain circumstances.

There are age-based preferences among tobacco users. Heated tobacco brands, such as IQOS, appeal to older smokers, while e-cigarettes are used by younger consumers, which remains a problem for the industry. In the U.S., the smoking rate for young people has dropped 3.7%, but a 2019 survey by the FDA found that 28% of high-school students are vaping.

To satisfy the diverse tastes of nicotine users, cigarette companies must produce a range of offerings. PMI plans to develop its small e-vapor brand IQOS VEEV, while Imperial will expand distribution of its heated tobacco brand Pulze. British American Tobacco, Altria and Imperial also are investing in modern oral nicotine pouches, a growing trend in certain markets.

In the U.S., cigarette volumes are declining by 4% to 6% annually. But add in heated tobacco and vaping products, and the average drop has been just 0.9% annually since 2014, Altria reports.

For more on tobacco sales trends, see “Smokin’ Sales” in the January issue of NACS Magazine and “Fighting Headwinds” in the December 2019 issue.

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