Tobacco Sales Reverse Long-Term Decline During Pandemic Interview with:

Brian P. Lee, MD, MAS Assistant Professor Clinical Medicine University of Southern Californi Keck School of Medicine Los Angeles, California

Dr. Lee

Brian P. Lee, MD, MAS
Assistant Professor Clinical Medicine
University of Southern Californi
Keck School of Medicine
Los Angeles, California What is the background for this study?

Response: The COVID-19 pandemic has been associated with mental health stressors, including anxiety, loneliness, and social instability. We hypothesized the pandemic may have led to increased alcohol and tobacco use as a coping mechanism for these stressors. National retrospective questionnaires had suggested higher reports of substance use, but these are limited by selection and recall biases, in addition to subjective report – we sought to address this knowledge gap by using a nationally-representative longitudinal cohort (Nielsen National Consumer Panel) tracking real-time purchases of households across the US. What are the main findings?

Response: We found that national alcohol and tobacco purchases increased 34% and 13% in April-June 2020, compared to the same period in 2019. The increase in alcohol purchases was higher than can be explained by bar and restaurant closures alone, and tobacco reversed a long-term trend of decline. These relative increases during the early pandemic were highest among younger adults, ethnic minorities, larger households, and households with young children, which are demographics that other studies have shown to have disproportionately higher levels of pandemic-related stressors. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Increased substance use, as an indirect consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, should be of concern to the public, medical professionals, and policymakers. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: Interventions addressing pandemic-related effects on mental health and substance use, and further study of the downstream health effects of pandemic-related onset of substance misuse are critical to mitigate the overall harm from the COVID-19 pandemic to public health

No disclosures


Brian P. Lee, Jennifer L. Dodge, Adam Leventhal, et al. Retail Alcohol and Tobacco Sales During COVID-19. Ann Intern Med. [Epub ahead of print 2 March 2021]. doi:10.7326/M20-7271





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Last Updated on March 9, 2021 by Marie Benz MD FAAD