Thursday, August 15, 2013

Despite Best Efforts of Anti-Smoking Groups, Cigarette Sales Were Down 600 Million Units in First Quarter of 2013

Despite the best efforts of many anti-smoking groups, cigarette sales were down 600 million units in the first quarter of 2013. Why? Because electronic cigarettes competed successfully with tobacco cigarettes and drove their sales down.

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal: "The market for e-cigarettes, which includes more than 250 brands, has grown from the thousands of users in 2006 to several million world-wide. Analysts estimate sales could double this year to $1 billion. Some go as far as saying consumption of e-cigs could surpass consumption of traditional cigarettes in the next decade. Tobacco company executives even noted that e-cigarettes drove total industry cigarette volumes down about 600 million cigarettes, or about 1 percent, during the first quarter, excluding Internet sales—a major avenue for e-cig purchases."

This effect, which is going to reduce smoking-related disease, occurred despite the best efforts of many anti-smoking groups, which have been vigorously discouraging smokers from quitting smoking or cutting down on their cigarette consumption using e-cigarettes.

In other words, if the anti-smoking groups had their way, there would have been 600 million more cigarettes smoked in the first quarter of 2013.

The Rest of the Story

You may be wondering if you read this story correctly. It states that the anti-smoking groups are acting in a way to increase cigarette consumption, rather than decrease it. This seems ironic, if not absurd.

Nevertheless, this is not a mistake. It is true. The anti-smoking groups did everything they could to prevent this 600 million unit decline in cigarette sales. Fortunately, many smokers didn't listen to the anti-smoking groups and instead, decided to put their health first and to decrease their consumption of cigarettes.

It is sad that a successful intervention that is decreasing cigarette consumption is occurring not as a result of the actions of tobacco control groups, but in spite of their actions. In fact, the cigarette companies are playing more of a role in this substantial public health success story than the anti-smoking groups.

It's time for the anti-smoking groups to go back to the drawing board and remind themselves that they are trying to improve the public's health, not harm it.

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