Big Tobacco research shows surge in smoking due to ‘negative publicity’ about vaping
CEO Billy Gifford of the Big Tobacco company The Altria Group is now claiming that sales of tobacco cigarettes are rising due to the surge in negative publicity surrounding vaping. During an April 30 conference call regarding first quarter earnings, Gifford said that internal data shows former smokers-turned-vapers over the age of 50 are returning to smoking in huge numbers.
Altria is the manufacture of some of Big Tobacco’s most popular brands of tobacco products, including Marlboro cigarettes and Skoal chewing tobaccos. It is also a 35 percent shareholder in one of the world’s leading vapor companies – JUUL Labs.
The new trend is purportedly due to a combination of factors that includes bad press surrounding the EVALLI outbreak of 2019, reports of numerous state governors enacting flavor bans through executive order, and – more recently – the coronavirus pandemic. Regarding EAVLI, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finally acknowledged in a February 25 press release that the mysterious lung disorder was caused by the vaping of contraband CBD products laced with Vitamin E acetate. Although conventional nicotine-based vapes are not linked to the outbreak, months of damaging allegations to the contrary seems to have done irreparable damage to the reputation of vaping.
Most of the various statewide vaping bans have been challenged in the courts with many of the rulings favoring the vaping industry. Others are still bogged down in judicial appeals processes. And when fear and panic over the COVID-19 pandemic was at its peak in March and April, mainstream media was wrongly reporting that vaping increases the risks of coronavirus infection. Uncertain about which news story to trust, older smokers apparently began returning to combustible tobacco in droves, according to statements made by Gifford during the conference call.
“Over the last several months, we've observed an increase in the number of age 50 and older smokers in the cigarette category. We believe these smokers had previously switched to e-vapor products, but recently returned to cigarettes due to negative publicity and regulatory and legislative developments in the e-vapor category. Based on our adult smoker demographics, smokers over the age of 50 have a greater propensity to purchase discount cigarettes than younger adult smokers.”
Dr. Farsalinos says new smoking trend is ‘troubling’
News of Altria’s earnings report and Gifford’s related conference call remarks are causing concerns among many tobacco control experts around the globe. Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos of the Onassis Cardiac Surgery in Greece has publicly stated via Inside Sources that this return to smoking in vapers over the age of 50 in “troubling.”
“This is really unfortunate and a sign of serious misinformation and misperceptions about the large risk difference between smoking and harm reduction nicotine products...Drastic measures are needed so that smokers will receive reasonable, unbiased, and evidence-based messages [to] make informed decisions.”
Additional pressure being placed on the vaping industry by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may also be negatively affecting the increases in smoking rates in the older demographics. Commissioner Stephen Hahn has said that the FDA now has a 120-day extension for the PMTA deadline as ordered by the federal courts. Manufacturers of vapor products including e-liquids, mods, and cartomizers have until September 9 to submit Pre-Market Tobacco Applications (PMTAs) or risk having their products removed from store shelves across the United States.
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