The Corner

Health Care

Anti-Vaping Scare Tactics and Cigarette Sales

(Naveen Asaithambi/Getty Images)

According to the Post:

New government data shows that sales of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products increased last year for the first time in two decades, raising concerns that pandemic-related stress spurred an uptick in smoking . . .

The largest U.S. cigarette producers sold an estimated 203.7 billion cigarettes to wholesalers and retailers in 2020, representing an increase of about 800 million over 2019, according to an annual report released Tuesday by the Federal Trade Commission. Sales of smokeless tobacco products such as chewing tobacco also increased slightly to 126.9 million, according to a parallel FTC report.

The pandemic is an obvious culprit here. However, the negative health impact of the pandemic that will result from this increase in smoking (I assume people are buying more cigarettes because they want to smoke more) could have been tempered if the CDC and the FDA hadn’t spent so much time demonizing the less harmful alternative that is vaping. As the WSJ notes:

People who once vaped may also have returned to regular cigarettes because of health concerns over vaping prompted by a mysterious lung illness in 2019 that was ultimately linked to vitamin E oil in marijuana vaping products. Bans on flavored vaping and increased e-cigarette taxes may have also contributed to the increase, consumers and industry officials said.

For more on this, see this Great Antidote podcast with CEI’s Michelle Minton about vaping, where she makes this excellent point:

I like to not describe myself as an advocate of vaping. I am an advocate for people to be able to make their own best choices for their own lives, whatever that means to them. And vaping is just such a clear example of a product that has benefits for individuals smokers, people who are habituated to nicotine who want to find a way- everybody knows how dangerous it is to be a lifelong smoker, how deadly it can be, all the diseases, all the problems that it can cause everyone knows this people continue to smoke anyway. And I would say almost every single one of them would love to be able to get the benefits that they feel they derive from smoking in a way that was not going to kill them, frankly, and vaping, electronic cigarettes, nicotine vapor products as well as other products now that are non-combustible, so things that you don’t light on fire. These have all been pretty conclusively- I mean, it’s hard to argue at this point that they aren’t substantially safer than lighting something up and inhaling the products of combustion into your lungs every day for decades of your life.

Right, no one is arguing that there is no harm in starting to vape when you don’t already smoke. However, for actual smokers who have a hard time stopping or no intention to stop, it’s hard to make the case that these people wouldn’t benefit from switching to vaping.

I also recommend this great piece by Kevin Williamson where he points out that there is no other way to look at the former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb than as the Marlboro Man’s best friend.


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