U.S. Remains Key Growth Market for Cigarettes, Despite Graphs Like This

A graph released earlier this year by the Surgeon General reflects the dramatic and ongoing 50-year decline in American cigarette consumption. And yet, a chief executive for Imperial Tobacco group recently called the U.S. "a key growth market." How is this possible?

The Washington Post reports this morning that two of America's largest tobacco companies are joining forces to steel themselves against the country's growing disinterest in cigarettes. But with cigarette sales in Europe falling even faster than here in the U.S., America remains a more attractive customer than much of the rest of the world. The upshot is that Big American Tobacco is likely consolidating to not only confront the country's ebbing smoking habit, but to concentrate its efforts on "key U.S. growth markets." Which markets might those be? The poor and the young:

...some states and demographics still seem to be clinging on to the habit—and keeping American tobacco companies afloat... Smoking, as it happens, also appears to be highly correlated with both poverty and education levels in the United States: 27.9 percent of American adults living below the poverty line are smokers, while just 17 percent of those living above it are, according to the CDC; 24.7 percent of American adults without a high school diploma are smokers, while 23.1 percent of those with one are. Only 9.1 percent of those with an undergraduate degree, and 5.9 percent of those with a graduate degree are smokers... And cigarettes are most popular among those adults between the ages of 25 and 44 years old: 21.6 percent of the age group smokes, more than any other.

Consider, also, that while the last several decades have seen smoking prevalence decrease substantially across the globe, the number of cigarette smokers worldwide has actually increased, due to substantial population growth between 1980 and 2012.

More details at WaPo.