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Has Smoking Lost Its Cool?


This article is published in collaboration with Statista

by Felix Richter


While lighting up a cigarette was once considered a sign of class and sophistication or, at the very least, an act of coolness, smoking seems to have lost some of its spark in recent years. According to the Federal Trade Commission, 190.2 billion cigarettes were sold in the United States in 2021, marking the first time cigarette sales dropped below 200 billion since the FTC started tracking them in 1963.


As our chart illustrates, cigarette sales have declined more or less continuously over the past 40 years, dropping by more than 50 percent since 2000 and by 70 percent since smoking's heyday in the early 1980s. In the meantime, cigarette advertising and promotional spending climbed from $1.2 billion in 1980 to $8.1 billion in 2021, most of the latter coming in the form of wholesale and retail price discounts.


The number of cigarette smokers in the United States has also dropped over the past four decades, albeit not quite at the same pace as cigarette sales. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 28.3 million adults in the U.S. smoked cigarettes in 2021, down 45 percent from 51.6 million in 1980.


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