A new report entitled “Consumption of Cigarettes and Combustible Tobacco – United States, 2000-2011” from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that is featured in this week’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, shows that tobacco use for rolling cigarettes has sharply risen since 2008 and offset the decrease in total cigarette consumption. Even though the consumption of cigarettes has progressively dropped for 11 years, with a 2.5% drop from 2010 to 2011, the dramatic rise in the use of non-cigarette smoked tobacco products has put the breaks on the long decline of the total consumption of smoked tobacco products.
Pipe tobacco consumption saw the largest increase of tobacco products with a rise of 482%, and large cigars with a rise of 233% from 2000 to 2011. However, the higher cigar consumption was mainly due to tobacco manufacturers adding weight to numerous small cigars, so that these would be classified as large cigars, regardless of the fact that they retained a very similar size and shape to cigarettes, and therefore avoiding higher taxes and regulations.
The report shows that the overall consumption of all smoked tobacco products, including cigarettes, hand-rolling tobacco and cigars dropped by 27.5% between 2000 and 2011, even though the decline between 2010 and 2011 was minimal with only 0.8%. However, irrespective of the overall drop, the consumption of non-cigarette smoked tobacco products rose by 123%.
The CDC calculated consumption for all types of smoked tobacco by using data from the Treasury Department, whilst earlier CDC reports were based on consumption data published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which ceased reporting in 2007.
The disparity between cigarette consumption and other forms of smoked tobacco is explained in the report. Since the federal excise tax is lower on pipe tobacco and hand-rolling tobacco than on cigarettes explains the reasons for the dramatic rise in the sale of pipe and hand-rolling tobacco. They are simply a cheaper alternative to ready-made cigarettes. However, this advantage in price difference could soon be limited by a new legislation, the Transportation and Student Loan Interest Rate Bill, which should be signed into law in July.
Another factor in the disparity are the different manufacturing and marketing restrictions between cigarettes and cigars. For instance whilst the FDA prohibits using flavoring or descriptions, such as “light” or “low tar” in cigarettes, these restrictions do not apply for pipe tobacco and cigars.
According to another report just released by The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, all states and the District of Columbia have continued to meet their goals of prohibiting the sale of tobacco to youths under the age of 18. In a measure to reduce tobacco consumption amongst youth and young adults even further, the 2012 Surgeon General’s Report recommends increasing the price of tobacco products, making it less affordable and to conduct hard-hitting mass media campaigns, together with evidence-based tobacco control and prevention programs.
In the U.S., tobacco use is still one of the leading causes of preventable death and disease with subsequent health consequences, such as heart disease, lung disease, multiple types of cancer, adverse reproductive effects, and the worsening of chronic health conditions. Around 443,000 Americans are killed every year through smoking cigarettes and exposure to secondhand tobacco, and for every person who died there are 20 other people who live with a smoking-related disease. In monetary terms, the cost of smoking cigarettes has been estimated to cost $193 billion annually in direct health care expenses and lost productivity.