Monday, June 18, 2018

Young, poor keep big tobacco big

Big American tobacco wants to get bigger in America. This week, Reynolds American, which sells both Camel and Pall Mall cigarettes, agreed to acquire rival and Newport menthol-maker Lorillard for an estimated $27.4 billion. If approved, the deal will effectively combine the portfolios of two of the country's largest cigarette companies.

The deal is also a surprising indication of optimism surrounding the U.S. industry. Americans adults, on average, smoke fewer than 1,300 cigarettes per year, according to a report released earlier this year by the Surgeon General. By comparison, that number was upwards of 4,200 in 1963 — three times the current figure.

But some states and demographics still seem to be clinging on to the habit — and keeping American tobacco companies afloat.

More than 28% of Kentucky's and West Virginia's adult population were regular or frequent smokers as of 2012. In Utah, smokers made up barely more than 10% of the population; in California, just over 12%. The national smoking rate was just above 18%.

Smoking appears to be highly correlated with both poverty and education levels in the United States: 27.9% of American adults living below the poverty line are smokers, while just 17% of those living above it are, according to the CDC; 24.7% of American adults without a high school diploma are smokers, while only 9.1% of those with an undergraduate degree are.

Cigarettes are most popular among adults between the ages of 25 and 44 years old: 21.6% of the age group smokes, more than any other.

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