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Douglas Capraro Douglas Capraro

Map: If Fewer Americans Smoke, Why Are There More Smoke Shops?


As the US continues its efforts to squash smoking, a shrinking niche of committed smokers are fueling a smoke-shop boom.

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Even though fewer people are smoking than ever, smoke shops continue to thrive. This odd trend is illustrated in a new map by Business Week (below), which shows how retailers specializing in tobacco products have doubled from 1998 to 2012. At the same time, smoking in the US has been declining for decades as public health campaigns, like this one, fight the habit with rising cigarette taxes and indoor smoking bans. Even CVS recently stopped selling tobacco products.

So if fewer people are smoking, why are there are now more than 4,000 smoke shops throughout the country? Business Week speculates that the industry is driven by a small but committed population of smokers who are less likely to respond to public health efforts.

Also, anti-smoking advocates are generally less likely to target smaller tobacco shops than they are concerned about tobacco sales at convenience stores and other large retailers. And the rising popularity of “vaping” could play some part in the boom, since smoke shops tend to offer a larger variety of vaporizers than regular convenience stores (the 3,500 “vape shops” around the US are not included in the data).