Cigarette Sales Increased During COVID-19 Pandemic


We all know the dangers of smoking, especially for Blacks who are more likely to die from smoking-related complications than whites. Yet, that didn’t stop many people from picking up a cigarette during the pandemic. There was an increase in cigarette sales during the COVID-19 pandemic, with about a 14.1 percent increase above expected sales, according to a research letter published online Oct. 19 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Using an interrupted time series model, observed cigarette sales during March 2020 to June 2021 were compared to expected sales for the same period in the absence of the pandemic, based on long-term declining trends from before the pandemic (January 2007 to February 2020) after adjustment for seasonality.

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The researchers found that for all months after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, observed cigarette sales exceeded expected sales. After adjustment for all covariates, the estimated average difference between observed and expected cigarette sales indicated a monthly excess sale of 0.34 packs per capita. This represented a 14.1 percent increase in cigarette sales compared with that expected had the pre-pandemic trend persisted. Even with a one-month lag from the month when cigarette supply was released from manufacturers to allow for transit of cigarettes to the point of retail sales, the evidence of excess sales was valid (excess sales of 0.17 packs; increase of 9.0 percent).

“Cigarette sales were greater than would have been expected during the pandemic, with slowing of the previous downward trend, suggesting persistent, overall changes in smoking behavior, although individual consumption was not directly measured,” the authors write.

Why the increase? One clear reason many people picked up more cigarettes during the pandemic is because of stress brought on by the uncertainty of the pandemic.

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Stress and smoking

Smoking has often been used as a way for people who are highly stressed to cope with the unpleasant feelings they may be experiencing. However, it is important to remember that it is not a long-term stress reliever. It will not stop whatever is causing you stress. In fact, nicotine addiction can actually cause you more stress because your body can become addicted to it and go through withdrawals without it.

Although it may be hard, it is important that you find a healthier alternative to coping with your stress that doesn’t involve smoking.

Here are some alternatives you may try: