Cigarette sales hit a 20-year record – why is the pandemic making us smoke?

Ssome of us have embraced new hobbies, got in shape, watched endless box sets on Netflix, and perfected our baking during the pandemic. But old habits die hard, it turns out that many of us have indulged in our tobacco addiction – according to new sales data that shows cigarette sales have hit an all-time high in 20 years in 2020.

New Federal Trade Commission Cigarette Report, compiled with data from leading tobacco companies Reynolds American, Altria Group, ITG Holdings USA and Vector Group Ltd, shows cigarette sales increased 0.4% – 203 , 7 billion cigarettes compared to 202.9 billion in 2019.

Part of the increase in sales could be due to price cuts, but many experts suggest the pandemic has had an effect.

Buying cigarettes in bulk around closures was a trend, while during the restrictions there was a glaring lack of health services, including drug treatment facilities.

The numbers come as no shock to many healthcare professionals.

“I’m not surprised,” said Dr Damir S. Utrzan, at The independent, who is the Manager of Mental Health Services at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation Addiction Treatment and Advocacy Organization. There are behavioral elements of control in the act of smoking, Utrzan explains. “People are looking for any way to feel like they are in control, part behavioral so that they know they can light a cigarette and they know they can feel better.”

Then there is the physical release of smoking, the chemical effects of cigarettes. When nicotine enters the bloodstream, it travels to the brain, where it releases neurotransmitters, including dopamine. There is a short-lived chemical reward that some say reduces stress. “In the short term, they immediately reduce anxiety,” Utrzan explains. “In the long run though, the way chemicals are released into the body after inhaling nicotine actually causes more anxiety and translates into an increased desire for nicotine.”

Smoking rates have generally declined over time, but 2020 marks a reversal of a long-standing downward trend. According to Don Burke, senior vice president of Management Science Associates in Pittsburgh, “total nicotine consumption in the United States increased by 3.4%,” he told CSP, “the pandemic has clearly had a impact”.

Tobacco taxes and bans on smoking in public places contributed to the decline in smoking until 2019, but with the places closed there were fewer social commitments allowing more “smoking opportunities.” tobacco, “Altria CEO Billy Gifford told investors, reported The Washington Post. Gifford also suggested that more time and money from stimulus checks could have been a big factor in increasing cigarette sales in 2020.

Studies are being conducted on the impacts of the pandemic on support networks and addiction support groups, as experts say isolation creates more opportunities to satisfy our addictions. “We have seen people whose struggle with drug addiction has escalated and escalated, or they have relapsed, due to social isolation. I have spoken to a lot of people who during the pandemic felt lonely and depressed, and I feel like cigarettes are the only thing they have, ”Utrzan says.

Rebecca Smith, social work administrator at Buncombe Health and Human Services agrees. “The isolation, as well as the fear and anxiety surrounding the impact on our ability to meet basic needs, I think these two things have dramatically affected people’s mental health and their use of inappropriate coping strategies. as substances to alleviate these stressors, ”Smith said. the Asheville Citizen Times.

However, the increase in cigarette sales does not appear to be a continuing trend, sales of traditional cigarettes were down 4.9% at convenience store Nielsen for a four-week period ending March 27, 2021. Analysts attribute this to to a number of factors including manufacturers are raising their list prices and stay-at-home orders statewide are lifted.

Social interaction, smoking restrictions in public places, and smoking cessation services all help us curb the urge to light up. But there is a strong demand for addiction support nationwide, says Utrzan, “we have seen an influx of people asking for help, the demand for our care far exceeds the availability of services.” He advises using friends and family for support. network as much as possible.

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