The decline in traditional cigarettes sales has ticked up again, according to the latest Nielsen report.

The number of cigarettes sold — cigarette volumes — dropped by 7.2% in the four-week period that ended Aug. 10, Nielsen determined. Nielsen primarily measured convenience-store data.

Nielsen initially reported a 9.8% decline on July 24, but said it was revamping its survey methods.

Wells Fargo Securities analyst Bonnie Herzog has said cigarette volumes could be down as much as 6%. British American Tobacco Plc and Altria Group Inc., parent company of Philip Morris USA, has said the decline could be between 4% and 5%, while Imperial has said between 4.5% and 5%.

Herzog cautioned that even with the new Nielsen methodology, “we still see plenty of room for improvement.”

Nielsen reported Marlboro volume was down 8.2% for the four-week period, while Newport was down 3%, Camel down 7.4%, Natural American Spirit down 2.7% and Pall Mall down 11.1%.

The volume decline is partially caused by a recent 11-cent per pack price increase and by electronic cigarettes being increasingly adopted as a viable nicotine alternative.

Part of the decline also can be attributed to wholesalers and retailers stocking up on inventory ahead of the price increase in February. Those groups typically pass along list-price increases to consumers.

In traditional cigarettes, Philip Morris held steady in first place at 53.9% market share, of which 47.3% is the top-selling Marlboro.

Reynolds was unchanged at 33.8%, led by 13.2% from Newport, 8.8% Camel, 6.4% Pall Mall and 3.5% Natural American Spirit.

ITG was at 6.9%, including 2% from Winston and 1.6% each from Kool and Maverick. ITG has said its market share is closer to 10%.

With electronic cigarettes, Juul holds a 73.4% market share, unchanged from the previous survey, despite eliminating some flavorings earlier this year.

By comparison, the market share is 11.6% for No. 2 Vuse of R.J. Reynolds Vapor Co., up from 11.4% for the previous survey. Similar flavored e-cigs have not been pulled from retail by Reynolds Vapor.

Herzog has projected $9 billion in e-cigarette sales this year, up from $7 billion in 2018.

Herzog cautioned, however, that e-cigarettes are just the third largest tobacco product with 5% of retail sales, compared with 82% for traditional cigarettes and 8% for chewing and smokeless tobacco.

Year over year, Imperial Brands Plc’s Blu e-cig was third at 4.6%, followed by NJoy at 3.9% and Japan Tobacco’s Logic was unchanged at 2.5%.

However, NJoy’s market share jumped to 11.6% for the most recent four-week period, while Juul was at 71.4% and Vuse at 10.9%.

Herzog said NJoy’s recent gain can be attributed to the methodology changes, saying previous reports “excluded multiple NJoy product SKUs in its scan-reporting data.”

Herzog cautioned that e-cigarettes are facing increasing competition from other non-combustible alternatives, such as oral nicotine products and snus.

“NJoy continues a very rapid ascent in sales and market share, showing how dynamic the vaping market continues to be,” said David Sweanor, an adjunct law professor at the University of Ottawa and the author of several e-cigarette and health studies.

rcraver@wsjournal.com 336-727-7376 @rcraverWSJ

Load comments