U.S. Tobacco Production, Consumption, and Export Trends

Examination of historical tobacco data reveals a declining long-term trend in the utilization of tobacco by U.S. manufacturers and leaf exporters. While world tobaccoexports increased over the past two decades, U.S. leaf tobacco exports declined inrelative and absolute terms. Cigarette manufacturers have been increasing the use ofless expensive foreign tobacco and decreasing the use of more costly U.S.-grown tobacco. Now, actions taken as a result of the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement between cigarette manufacturers and states’ attorneys general are further diminishing the consumption of tobacco products in the United States. Cigarette exports also have been declining recently in contrast to a history of growth.

Total utilization of U.S.-grown tobacco has been declining since 1975, from1.941 billion pounds to 1.121 billion pounds in 2001 (a 42% drop in the farm
weight).

Exports of tobacco leaf peaked in 1978 at 765 million pounds (farm weight),and then declined to an estimated 399 million pounds in 2002. This decline occurred during a time when world exports were growing. The U.S. share of world exports has declined from 27% in 1969 to 7% in 2002.! Even when U.S. cigarette manufacturing output was growing, the use of domestic leaf was declining. Manufacturing use declined from 1.6 billion pounds in 1952 to 688 million pounds in 2001. Use of domestic leaf tobacco has declined because: the amount of tobacco in each cigarette is now about 40% less than what it was 45 years ago; the total number of cigarettes consumed in the United States has declined from 640 billion in 1981 to an estimated 420 billion in 2002; and cigarettes now contain only about 52%
domestic tobacco while they once contained more than 90% (a reflection of the declining competitiveness of U.S.-grown tobacco).

The only growth market for U.S. tobacco since 1984 has been through the export of cigarettes. Cigarette exports climbed from less than 60 billion in the early 1980s to 244 billion in 1996. This market has since declined to 127 billion in 2002. The drop in cigarette exports is the equivalent of about 119 million pounds of U.S.-grown tobacco.

The federal tobacco price support program keeps U.S. tobacco prices higher than they would otherwise be and encourages the use of less expensive foreign tobacco. Foreign producers have been increasing the quantity and improving the quality of their tobacco. In 2002, imported cigarette tobacco was delivered to the United States for about 40% of the cost of U.S.-grown tobacco.

The farm price of tobacco and the total value of production have trended upward when measured in current dollars. However, since 1980 reduced output and inflation have caused a decline in the inflation-adjusted value.

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