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Cigarettes are not about to disappear [ClearOnMoney]
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Cigarettes are not about to disappear

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Commentary

Cigarettes are not about to disappear

8 Jan 2011 by Jim Fickett.

Citigroup analysts point out a steady decline in the prevalence of smokers in developed markets. Smoking globally, however, continues to increase.

On Friday Citigroup downgraded three tobacco companies. FT Alphaville had one of the more complete reports, including this extract:

volume declines [in smoking] … suggest that it is quite possible that there will be no smokers left in Britain or many other developed countries in about 30-50 years …

To an astonishing extent there has been a consistent straight-line, long-term decline in the rate of smoking in developed markets

This straight-line decline is, however, rather slow in many markets. The report, extrapolating current trends, predicts the death of smoking in France, Germany and Greece to take place in the years 2118, 2280, and 2231, respectively. Not exactly a near-term occurrence.

It is unclear whether the Citigroup report deals seriously with the global market. Outside of North America and western Europe, the prevalence of smoking continues to rise in many places.

Concerning Africa, for example, the American Cancer Society wrote last year,

Recent date suggests that, with current trends, more than half the region of Africa will double its tobacco consumption within 12 years.

Through 2003, smoking was continuing to increase in Russia:

Between 1992 and 2003, smoking prevalence doubled among women from 6.9% (95% CI 6.3% to 7.6%) to 14.8% (13.9% to 15.7%) and increased among men from 57.4% (95% CI 56.0% to 58.8%) to 62.6% (61.1% to 64.1%).

On the overall, global situation, the World Health Organization wrote in 2002,

Global consumption of cigarettes has been rising steadily since manufactured cigarettes were introduced at the beginning of the 20th century. While consumption is levelling off and even decreasing in some countries, worldwide more people are smoking, and smokers are smoking more cigarettes.

The numbers of smokers will increase mainly due to expansion of the world’s population. By 2030 there will be at least another 2 billion people in the world. Even if prevalence rates fall, the absolute number of smokers will increase. The expected continuing decrease in male smoking prevalence will be offset by the increase in female smoking rates, especially in developing countries.

In evaluating a tobacco company one should indeed pay close attention to volume trends. But this is not a business that is about to wither away.