Estimating the impact of COVID-19 on changes in volume sales of cigars, smokeless tobacco products, pipe, and roll-your-own tobacco in the United States

Nicotine Tob Res. 2022 Aug 6;ntac191. doi: 10.1093/ntr/ntac191. Online ahead of print.


Introduction: We examined the potential impact of COVID-19 on trends in volume sales of non-cigarette combustible and smokeless tobacco products in the U.S.

Methods: We analyzed monthly national sales for cigars, smokeless tobacco, pipe, and roll-your-own tobacco during June 2019-June 2021. Data were from the U.S Department of the Treasury. Interrupted time series were used to measure associations of the COVID-19 "shock" (taken as June 2020 or 6 months after the first diagnosis of COVID-19 in the US) and volume sales. Negative binomial regression was used to evaluate associations between volume sales and changes in community mobility.

Results: Within interrupted time series analysis, the shock of the COVID-19 pandemic was associated with an initial increase in the number of little cigars sold by 11.43 million sticks (p<0.01), with no significant sustained change in trend. The COVID-19 shock was also associated with an initial increase in large cigar volume sales by 59.02 million sticks, followed by a subsequent decrease by 32.57 million sticks per month (p=0.005). Every 10% reduction in mobility to retail stores was significantly associated with reduced volume sales of little cigars (IRR = 0.84, 95% CI, 0.71 to 0.98) and large cigars (IRR = 0.92, 95% CI, 0.88 to 0.96). Other findings were statistically non-significant.

Conclusion: COVID-19 was associated with increased volume sales for cigars and there was a significant association between reduced mobility to points of sale and reduced cigar volume sales. Intensified efforts are needed to prioritize evidence-based tobacco prevention and control efforts amidst the pandemic.

Implications: At the six-month mark following the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US, we found that the shock of the COVID-19 pandemic was associated with a statistically significant initial increase in the number of little and large cigars sold nationwide.These COVID-19 related trends may have momentarily reversed the long-term declines seen in cigar sales prior to the pandemic.Intensified implementation of evidence-based tobacco control and prevention measures amidst the COVID-19 pandemic may help reduce aggregate tobacco consumption.