Cigarette sales drop nationwide, smokeless tobacco sales on the rise

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Cigarette sales are dropping nationwide according to a recent report by the journal of the American Medical Association, but smokers are not necessarily giving up the habit.

A local tobacco shop owner says smokers are simply changing the way they consume tobacco.

That comes from pressures at the workplace on smoking, higher tobacco taxes, and, yes, even higher fuel prices.

A recent report shows smokeless tobacco use is on the rise at the workplace as cigarette sales are down. But the report shows the smokers aren't giving up the habit only changing their smoking habits.

Smoke Nicholas Wright says he tries to avoid non-smoking areas.

"Maybe go to places that allow smoking and the foods not so great or maybe you sit outside."

A local tobacco shop owner is seeing a rise in generic brand cigarettes.

Smokin’ Joe’s owner Mike Hicks says, "We are seeing some folks that are dropping down to a lower price brand."

Besides generics, Hicks says workplace restrictions and even last year's tax hike are changing habits among smokers.

"We have seen a spike in sales in the roll your own category since July of last year."

And because many workplaces are banning cigarettes, Hicks says some customers are using smokeless tobacco.

"They're not switching totally, no. It's more of a convenience thing. You know either while they are at work or while they're away from home but they're still doing the cigarettes also."

But believe it or not, Hicks says even eight dollar cigars are seeing fewer sales with increases in cheaper ones..

"Because of fuel prices is now bringing the four, five, and a half dollar cigars."

Some of Hicks customers agree. While they enjoy the higher prices cigars they're not smoking them as much.

Smoker Edward Burke, Jr. says, he’s cutting back on high-dollar cigars.

"Instead of maybe getting the top of the line premium cigar, I'll get a mid-grade cigar."

Hicks says there is one product that's selling really well and that's the tobacco free smokeless tobacco.

He says it's a big hit for those places that ban tobacco and even for those trying to quit.

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