Perhaps the stupidest development to result from the coronavirus a smoking resurgence in the country.
Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal reports that although the national smoking rate hasn’t increased, the decrease in cigarette sales have slowed from a projected decline of 4% to 6% to a decline estimated at 2% to 3.5%.
The reason, according to the maker of Marlboro cigarettes, is a combination of fewer opportunities for people to congregate outside the home and the arrival of government stimulus checks.
“Fewer social engagements allow for more tobacco-use occasions,” said Altria Chief Executive Billy Gifford on an earnings call Tuesday.
More tobacco-use occasions cost money. In Wyoming, smoking-caused health care costs $258 million per year and smoking-caused losses in productivity cost $202.4 million per year.
The news that some recipients of government stimulus checks are spending the money on cigarettes could be depressing for many reasons.
One, people would use stimulus checks for cigarettes. Two, smoking is bad for your health. Three, COVID-19 is a respiratory illness.
The University of Maryland Medical System reports that smoking not only increases your risk for complications if you get the virus, it can also make you more likely to contract the disease in the first place.
“The Centers for Disease Control categorizes smokers as “immunocompromised,” which means having a weakened immune system,” they write.
“This puts smokers in the same group as those receiving cancer treatments or who have HIV. The CDC cautions that people who are immunocompromised are at risk to get more severe COVID-19 symptoms,” they said.
In 2017, 18.7% of adults in Wyoming smoked. Nationally, the rate was 17.1%.
In 2017, 5.7% of adults in Wyoming used e-cigarettes and 9.1% used smokeless tobacco.
In 2015 (the latest data available), 29.6% of high school students in Wyoming used electronic vapor products on at least one day in the past 30 days. Nationally, the rate was 24.1%.