Colorado cigarette sales rise for the first time in a decade

David Brendsel, Prevention Services Communications | 303-692-2156 |
Cigarette sales in Colorado have increased for the first time in nearly a decade, reversing a declining sales trend that began after voters increased the tobacco tax in 2004.
There were 194.4 million packs of cigarettes bought in Colorado in 2015, up 1.1 million (.7 percent) from 2014.
State cigarette sales hovered around 300 million packs a year from 1990 through 2004, the year voters raised taxes by 64 cents per pack. Sales plummeted to 226.7 million packs in 2005 when the tax took effect, bounced back temporarily in 2006, then continued to decline over the next decade to a low of 193.2 million packs in 2014.
Research shows that increases in the cigarette tax reduce smoking, especially among youth. Studies also show tax increases lose their effectiveness after roughly seven years.
Colorado’s cigarette tax was one of the lowest in the nation before the 2004 increase, which pushed it into the middle among states. Now, Colorado’s 84-cent-per-pack tax ranks 37th in the nation and is about half the national average per-pack tax of $1.60.
While cigarette sales have increased, smoking rates continue to decline, but at a slower rate. From 2004 through 2014, the percentage of adult tobacco users decreased from 20.0 percent to 15.7 percent.
“While we’ve made progress in protecting Coloradans from the toxic effects of tobacco, this increase in cigarette sales tells us there is more work to be done,” said Dr. Larry Wolk, executive director and chief medical officer at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “Colorado’s tobacco tax initially encouraged many smokers to quit, and continues to fund our efforts to prevent young people from starting and help current smokers quit.”