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Cigarette Sales Rose In 2020 For First Time In Decades, FTC Report Shows




Cigarette sales rose last year for the first time in two decades, providing more evidence that more Americans took to smoking amid the stresses of pandemic lockdowns, and spending on cigarette advertising and promotion increased 2.9% to $7.84 billion, according to annual reports from the Federal Trade Commission on the tobacco industry released Tuesday.

Key Facts

The FTC reports that 203.7 billion cigarettes were sold from large tobacco companies to retailers in the U.S. in 2020, a small increase from the 202.9 billion reported in 2019.

It’s a long way from the peak of 636.5 billion cigarettes sold in 1981.

Smokeless tobacco sales rose 0.9% to 126.9 million pounds.

There’s reason to believe that the rise in sales was a one-year blip—the volume of cigarette sales fell 9.4% in the four-week period ending October 9 compared to the same timeframe last year, according to Nielsen data.

Big Number

$6.07 billion. That’s how much tobacco companies spent on price discounts paid to cigarette retailers in 2020, accounting for more than three-fourths of all advertising and promotion spending.


Electronic cigarettes have become increasingly popular among American youth. A September U.S. Food and Drug Administration study found that 11.3% of high-schoolers and 2.8% of middle-schoolers are active e-cigarette users. A JAMA Pediatrics study released Tuesday found that the lifetime prevalence of cannabis vaping among American and Canadian teenagers rose from 6.1% to 13.6% from 2013 to 2020.

Further Reading

How the pandemic got people smoking again (Vox)

Youth E-cigarette Use Remains Serious Public Health Concern Amid COVID-19 Pandemic (U.S. Food and Drug Administration)

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