Wisconsin cigarette sales decline in 2022 was largest in a decade

The number of cigarette packs sold in Wisconsin dipped below 200 million in fiscal 2022 as the state saw the largest year-over-year decline in sales in a decade, according to data from the state Department of Revenue.

While Wisconsin received 4.3% of all taxes collected from cigarettes in fiscal 2010, that figure dropped to 2% in fiscal 2022, according to a recent Wisconsin Policy Forum brief.

The state collected $482.4 million in cigarette tax revenue on 192.9 million packs in fiscal 2022, down from $644.3 million on 273.5 million packs in fiscal 2010. Revenues peaked in 2010 following a series of tax increases and before the implementation of an indoor smoking ban.

Cigarette sales have generally trended downward in recent years, although there were increases of 0.7% in fiscal 2014 and fiscal 2016. There was also a 1.8% increase in fiscal 2020. The state was trending toward a 0.9% decrease during the first eight months of fiscal 2020, but saw a 7.8% increase in the final four months over the year amidst the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The downward trend returned in fiscal 2021 with a 2.6% decrease and then a 5.4% decrease in fiscal 2022. The decline from 2021 to 2022 was the largest year-over-year change since fiscal 2011. The decline brought sales below 200 million packs for the first time in available data. Sales are now down 54% from the more than 419 million packs sold in the state in 2001.

On a per capita basis, cigarette sales in the state have fallen from 77.7 per person in fiscal 2001 to 32.4 in fiscal 2022, according to the Wisconsin Policy Forum report.

The Wisconsin Policy Forum report attributes the decline to a number of factors ranging from tax increases and changes in federal, state and local policies to public health messaging to growing use of substitute products.

Wisconsin introduced a 5 cent per milliliter tax on vapor products, which are among the growing number of substitute products for cigarettes. The state collected $4.1 million in vapor tax revenue in fiscal 2022, up from $1.6 million in fiscal 2021.

For the first five months of fiscal 2023, vapor revenues are running almost 54% higher than fiscal 2022.

Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He also spent five years covering manufacturing at BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.

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