Tobacco has been a large industry ever since it was brought to Europe centuries ago. The American plant took off in popularity, becoming a commonly used product worldwide to be smoked and chewed. One of the primary factors causing tobacco consumption is the addictive nicotine found inside. Smoking continued to rise in popularity until its peak in 1963, where roughly 11 cigarettes were purchased per person per day in the United States. Other countries appeared to have a slightly later peak in popularity for smoking. In 1972, Switzerland approached its peak, resulting in Swiss smoking temporarily surpassing the rates of the U.S. Other countries, such as Germany and Japan, also experienced their highest rates in the 1970s. The United States and Switzerland had significant declines in sales after their peaks, though many other countries did not experience these rapid declines in cigarette sales until the early 2000s. Nowadays, many countries that have the highest rates of smoking tend to be in Europe, such as France, Germany, and Greece.
What caused the decline in the number of people smoking cigarettes across the globe? Among other things, the 20th century saw increased awareness of the impacts of cigarettes on consumer health, with research indicating that smoking was linked to cancer and other health issues. Additionally, substitute products, such as nicotine patches, nicotine gum, and vape pens have become available, providing competitive advantages over the already dwindling population of tobacco users. Research and knowledge of these new products, particularly vape pens, is limited given the minimal time period in which they have been popular. While some advocate for the safety of vape pens in comparison to smoking, the CDC recommends avoidance of the products as they attempt to discover potential health effects that could arise from the products.
Vaping is rapidly growing in popularity, with an estimated 41 million global vapers in 2018. Outside of the United States, many European countries are adopting the practice, with the United Kingdom, France, and Germany making up the rest of the top 4 markets. Given the high rates of smoking in both France and Germany, the adoption of vaping could show an effective switch from normal cigarettes to vaping products. One concern rising in these countries is the rise in the use of vape products among children and teens. Given that vaping is associated with an increased likelihood of smoking by a factor of four, legislation is attempting to decrease the appeal of vaping, particularly to minors, with many states like Michigan banning flavored vape products.
Despite the potential risk of an increase in smoking due to new markets of those with nicotine addiction, the World Health Organization still predicts that the rate of tobacco smoking will decrease going into the future. Many tobacco companies, such as Altria, are attempting to adjust by shifting into the vaping market. The effects of new legislation and its impact on the smoking industry will be seen in the future. Given the current decline in the number of people smoking, it appears that tobacco companies will continue to have to adapt and adjust to the rapidly shifting marketplace if they want to survive.