Some Vapers Are Returning to Combustibles

Altria pointed to flavor bans as one reason for the renewed interest in traditional cigarettes.

July 31, 2020

RICHMOND, Va.—Combustible cigarettes have staged a comeback during the pandemic as Americans cut back on pricier e-cigarettes, which also have taken a hit in the past year due to bans on fruit- and mint-flavored vape products, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Altria Group Inc. predicted that U.S. cigarette sales would only drop 2% to 3% in 2020, compared with its pre-COVID-19 forecast of a 4% to 6% drop. Stay-at-home edicts across the country this past spring meant fewer social gatherings, leaving more time to light up at home, according to Altria CEO Billy Gifford. More unemployment benefits and stimulus checks also helped low- and middle-income smokers. “Fewer social engagements allow for more tobacco-use occasions,” Gifford said this week during an earnings call.

Altria registered a 14% drop during the second quarter for U.S. unit sales of e-cigarettes. Gifford said the growth of vaping will likely halt during the next two years as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires electronic cigarette makers to submit all products for agency review by September or take them off U.S. shelves.

Altria said some vapers, particularly adults over age 50, are switching back to traditional cigarettes following the Food and Drug Administration’s flavor ban, which took effect in February, as well as negative media coverage of vaping.