according to data reported by Altria, smokers 50 and older are returning to traditional cigarettes after having switched to vaping eLiquids. This trend is most likely the outcome of a mix of bad press, regulatory crackdowns on vaping, and indirectly, the coronavirus pandemic.
CEO Billy Gifford told investors the news on Altria’s first-quarter earnings conference call that older vapers are primarily purchasing discount tier cigarettes after the sustained vilification of the vaping and the uncertainty over the Food and Drug Administration’s push towards the premarket tobacco application deadline.
Gifford said on that call; “Over the last several months, we’ve observed an increase in the number of age 50 and older smokers in the cigarette category,” adding; “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.”
Marlboro’s share of the American cigarette market fell by at least a half a percentage point to somewhere around 42.8 percent, compared to 43.3 percent in the first quarter of 2019. Nielsen data also suggests that Altria is losing retail share to cheaper brands, despite an increase in cigarette consumption partially tied to stockpiling brought on by pandemic fears.
Bonnie Herzog, a managing director at Goldman Sachs, in a market research note stated that Altria’s Marlboro brand is under performing in total industry dollar sales. E-cigarette market share is also decelerating, particularly tied to Juul Lab’s continued shrinking market. “We expect smaller brands such as Puff Bar to continue to gain significant share, especially in the disposable e-cig segment, which is not covered by the FDA’s restriction on non-tobacco [and] non-menthol flavor variants,” Herzog also noted.
Another factor driving Altria’s earnings results includes the pseudo public health crises in the states in 2019, which also caused global controversy around the so called "vaping related" lung injuries.
Konstantinos Farsalinos, a Greek cardiologist, believes the trend of vapers returning to cigarettes is 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,” he said, adding; “Drastic measures are needed so that smokers will receive reasonable, unbiased, and evidence-based messages to make informed decisions,” Farsalinos added, referring to the potential benefits of risk-reduced products like vaping.