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Big Tobacco Heralds a Healthier World While Fighting Its Arrival

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Many opponents have challenged the FDA’s legal authority to regulate tobacco products in a wide range of ways. But no matter how companies advertise their position, industry critics say their goal is to maintain a profitable share of the tobacco market at all costs. That said, U.S. sales will reach $65 billion in 2021, one-third of which will be menthol, overwhelming e-cigarette sales.

Eric Lindblom, a senior fellow in the O’Neill Institute of National and International Health Law at Georgetown University and a former adviser to the U.S. government, said, “They want smokers to quit or switch to less harmful tobacco products. It’s completely wrong to want to do that,” he said. “If the FDA is serious about helping smokers quit, it will stop opposing efforts to more tightly regulate and tax tobacco product smoking at the federal, state, and local levels.”

However, conventional cigarettes are becoming more expensive.a study A paper presented at JAMA earlier this year found that between 2015 and 2021, the number of cigarette packs sold in the United States fell by 27% to 9.1 billion from 12.5 billion per year. To make up for this, tobacco companies have raised prices, rising 29.5% from $5.57 to $7.22 per pack over the period.

Inflation is also a factor. In his first nine months of the year, Altria reported a steep 9% drop in sales volume. Executives point out that consumers are changing their behavior to save money, such as buying he packs of cigarettes instead of cartons.

The company’s stock price also fell.

“Most investors knew new regulation was coming, but the threat seemed so far away,” said Christopher Groh, an analyst at financial services firm Stifel Financial. “I think menthol will have a faster effect, but nicotine regulation is a long way off.”

On one level, the battle over menthol and nicotine restrictions has magnified government efforts to trickle down smoking despite industry resistance at every turn. But this moment is also radically different. For the first time, many public health officials have adopted Harm’s strategy of reduction, which is to not only curb the tobacco market, but also embrace and even advocate an e-cigarette alternative.

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