Connect with others who understand.

sign up log in
About MyLungCancerTeam

Connect with others who understand.

sign up log in
About MyLungCancerTeam
LUNG CANCER
NEWS

Following Years of Decline, US Cigarette Sales Spiked During COVID-19 Pandemic

Posted on February 02, 2022
Medically reviewed by
Todd Gersten, M.D.
Article written by
Marnie Willman
Sales of cigarettes rose 14.1 percent in the U.S. between 2020 and 2021. (Adobe Stock)

  • For the first time in two decades, cigarette sales in the U.S. increased between 2020 and 2021.
  • Research suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic increased smoking behaviors, as evidenced by a growth in sales during the pandemic.
  • Smoking is responsible for 80 percent to 90 percent of lung cancer cases in the U.S.

After years of steady decline, U.S. cigarette sales spiked by an estimated 14.1 percent between 2020 and 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a recent study. The trend has sparked concern among members of the health care community, as the increase in cigarette sales could lead to new cases of lung cancer and worse outcomes in the future.

Cigarette smoking remains the primary risk factor for developing lung cancer. In the U.S., 80 percent to 90 percent of lung cancer cases are attributed to smoking cigarettes. In an interview with Endeavor, Dr. Matthew Schabath — a lung cancer epidemiologist at Moffitt Cancer Center — expressed concern that the recent uptick in cigarette sales could lead to higher cancer rates. “For many of these cancers we’ve seen firsthand, the reductions in cancer incidence rates over the last several decades attributed to drastic reductions in cigarette consumption,” Dr. Schabath told Endeavor. “Reversing the public health successes of the decline in cancer incidence rates and cigarette consumption rates would be disappointing and tragic.”

Anxiety associated with the pandemic may have contributed to the increase in cigarette sales, according to some medical experts. Feelings of boredom due to restricted activities may have also been a contributor, according to a study from last October. The study found that people who smoke “reported smoking more frequently, driven by COVID-19-related stress, time at home, and boredom.” The study also found that many people who were attempting to quit smoking “found the stress of COVID-19 unbearable without tobacco use.”

U.S. Cigarette Sales Jumped an Estimated 14.1 Percent

For the study, researchers compared the expected rates of cigarette sales in the U.S. for March 2020 until June 2021 with the actual rates. They found that sales of cigarettes had declined before the pandemic (from 2007 until 2020), but then increased between 2020 and 2021. The study authors found that approximately 0.34 more packages per capita were sold during the pandemic than were expected based on pre-pandemic sales — 14.1 percent higher than expected.

“This study shows that increases in cigarette sales went beyond the first 3 months of the COVID-19 pandemic and persisted in the 16 months after its onset in March 2020,” according to the study. “This finding is also consistent with anecdotal claims by the tobacco industry about halting the long-term decline in cigarette sales during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Researchers noted their study provides only a partial picture of cigarette consumption in the U.S. during the pandemic. They said that the numbers reflect overall consumption, not individual consumption, and that they did not take into account cigarette sales beyond legal retail sales. They also noted there was no control group.

Cigarettes and Lung Cancer Risks

Researchers have found that quitting smoking lowers a person’s risk of lung cancer. It can also improve a person’s outcomes after a lung cancer diagnosis.

People living with newly diagnosed lung cancer who quit smoking live a median of 22 months longer than those who did not quit, according to research from the National Cancer Institute. They also have a longer lapse between diagnosis and disease progression: 5.7 years for those who quit compared to 3.9 years who continued.

Quitting can be difficult, however: One recent study found that more than half of people continue to smoke after undergoing lung cancer surgery. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides smoking cessation resources.

All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Todd Gersten, M.D. is a hematologist-oncologist at the Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute in Wellington, Florida. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about him here.
Marnie Willman is a Ph.D. candidate in medical microbiology and infectious diseases at the University of Manitoba. Learn more about her here.

Related articles

Many people with lung cancer struggle to get a good night’s sleep. In addition to producing...

Night Sweats and Lung Cancer

Many people with lung cancer struggle to get a good night’s sleep. In addition to producing...
Most research on nutrition and cancer relates to cancer prevention because there’s no specific...

A Lung Cancer Diet? Foods To Eat and Avoid

Most research on nutrition and cancer relates to cancer prevention because there’s no specific...
Many people with lung cancer experience skin rashes as side effects from treatments such as...

How To Manage Post-Treatment Lung Cancer Rash

Many people with lung cancer experience skin rashes as side effects from treatments such as...
Going through chemotherapy for lung cancer treatment is tough on your body, but you can regain...

Regaining Strength After Chemo: Aftercare Tips and Expectations

Going through chemotherapy for lung cancer treatment is tough on your body, but you can regain...
There are many causes of back pain. In some cases, this common complaint could be due to minor...

What’s the Connection Between Lung Cancer and Back Pain?

There are many causes of back pain. In some cases, this common complaint could be due to minor...
From managing appointments and medications to keeping yourself physically and emotionally...

Balancing Lung Cancer Treatment With Your Life

From managing appointments and medications to keeping yourself physically and emotionally...

Recent articles

Stem cell therapies are new and exciting cancer treatments that have gained attention for their...

What To Know About Stem Cell Treatment for Lung Cancer

Stem cell therapies are new and exciting cancer treatments that have gained attention for their...
If you’ve been diagnosed with lung cancer, you may be wondering if there’s a connection between...

Is There a Connection Between Alcohol and Lung Cancer?

If you’ve been diagnosed with lung cancer, you may be wondering if there’s a connection between...
Imaging studies are an important part of diagnosing most forms of cancer, including all types of...

What Does a CT Scan Show About Lung Cancer? Diagnosis, Accuracy, and Results

Imaging studies are an important part of diagnosing most forms of cancer, including all types of...
Many people use radiation therapy as a part of their lung cancer treatment plan. Radiation...

Radiation for Lung Cancer: What To Expect and Side Effects

Many people use radiation therapy as a part of their lung cancer treatment plan. Radiation...
It is not uncommon to have more than one disease at the same time, especially when one of those...

Cushing’s Syndrome and Lung Cancer: What’s the Connection?

It is not uncommon to have more than one disease at the same time, especially when one of those...
As part of the diagnostic process for lung cancer, a doctor might discuss cancer cell grading....

Lung Cancer Grading: How Cancer Cells Look and Behave Compared With Normal Cells

As part of the diagnostic process for lung cancer, a doctor might discuss cancer cell grading....
lung cancer News
lung cancer News

Thank you for subscribing!

Become a member to get even more:

sign up for free

close