Total cigarette consumption is down, but that doesn't tell the whole story about smoking.
According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), those declines have been offset by sharp increases in total adult consumption of pipe tobacco (used for roll-your-own cigarettes) and cigarette-like cigars.
Although total cigarette consumption continued an 11-year downward trend with a 2.5 percent decline from 2010 to 2011, dramatic increases in use of non-cigarette smoked tobacco products have slowed the long decline in overall consumption of smoked tobacco products.
A decline, but...
From 2000 to 2011, the largest increases were in consumption of pipe tobacco (482 percent) and large cigars (233 percent). The increase in cigars was due largely to tobacco manufacturers adding weight to many small cigars so they can be classified as large cigars and avoid higher taxes and regulation, while at the same time retaining a size and shape very similar to cigarettes.
According to the report, total consumption of all smoked tobacco products (including cigarettes, roll-your-own tobacco, pipe tobacco and cigars) declined by 27.5 percent between 2000 and 2011. However, decline was minimal (0.8 percent) between 2010 and 2011. Despite the overall decline, the consumption of non-cigarette smoked tobacco products increased by 123 percent.
Cause for alarm
"The rise in cigar smoking, which other studies show is a growing problem among youth and young adults, is cause for alarm," said Tim McAfee, director of CDC's Office on Smoking and Health. "The Surgeon General's Report released this past March shows that getting young people to either quit smoking or never start smoking is the key to ending the tobacco epidemic, because 99 percent of all smokers start before they're 26 years old."
The study, "Consumption of Cigarettes and Combustible Tobacco -- United States, 2000-2011," uses Treasury Department data to calculate consumption for all forms of smoked tobacco products. CDC had previously not calculated consumption estimates, and depended upon consumption data published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which USDA stopped reporting in 2007.
The report notes a disparity between consumption of cigarettes and other forms of smoked tobacco because the federal excise tax on pipe tobacco and roll-your-own tobacco is lower than cigarettes. The difference led to a dramatic increase in the sale of pipe tobacco used to make roll-your-own cigarettes, a lower-priced alternative to manufactured cigarettes.
A provision in a measure signed into law in July, the Transportation and Student Loan Interest Rate bill, could limit the advantage of this price difference. The difference in manufacturing and marketing restrictions between cigarettes and cigars also is a factor in the disparity. While the Food and Drug Administration prohibits the use of flavoring or descriptors such as "light" or "low tar" in cigarettes, there are no such restrictions on cigars and pipe tobacco.
Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States. The health consequences of tobacco use include heart disease, multiple types of cancer, lung disease, adverse reproductive effects, and the worsening of chronic health conditions.
Cigarette use and exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke kill an estimated 443,000 Americans each year. And for every death, 20 people live with a smoking-related disease. In addition to the cost in human life, cigarette smoking has been estimated to cost $193 billion annually in direct health care expenses and lost productivity.