I have always found the bans against selling loose cigarettes or cigarettes in packs of less than 20 counter to my sense of harm reduction.
Though restricting cigarette purchases to pack only might set a bar too high for some curious not-yet smoker or for a kid with only two dollars in his or her pocket (less common these days) I suspect that on average it does not stop too many from ponying up the larger outlay.
However, among the ever smokers I know, almost every one of them smokes less than they used to (even if they are daily smokers), many have quit but still have the occasional cigarette and many others have gone to social or weekend smoking. For the last two categories, those who still sometimes smoke but generally don’t, being able to buy a few cigarettes would be perfect.
Since they are grown up and have enough money to pay rent or mortgages, cigarettes are not that expensive even if it is a whole pack and especially if it is an entertainment expense. So they are going to buy the cigarettes for the weekend.
If cigarettes were purchasable in quantities of 2 or 5 (or even 1), they would be pleased and perfectly satisfied. However they end up buying a pack, and though some might save the pack for the next weekend, I think it is just as likely that they will over the next while smoke them all (after all, they will go stale might be the excuse). And now you have a seldom smoker moving into constant smoking. This is not good. And those 20 cigarettes were smoked by someone who might have stopped at 2.
This points out one of the constant problems with tobacco regulations in that you have at least two very distinct groups being served with actions that may help one group but to the detriment of the other.
-Paul L. Bergen