In the United States, as well as in Canada, it is illegal to sell cigarettes one at a time, although it is always possible to purchase them like that if you know a sympathetic convenience store owner. The logic behind this is that it makes it more difficult for youngsters to start smoking, as they may not have the money to buy a full pack, or even the desire to do so. They may, after all, want to buy a single cigarette to try it out.
That is a valid position, assuming that your goal is to minimize the number of young people that start smoking cigarettes every year. But governments are duplicitous about this, as they one the one hand try do dissuade people from smoking cigarettes, and on the other read handsome revenues from the sale of cigarettes, revenues they could not do without.
Some people have suggested that smaller cigarette packs, like 10 cigarettes for example, would be appropriate, since smokers may wish to cut down, buying less cigarettes and therefore buying less. You are supposedly less likely to smoke a lot if you only have 10 cigarettes, or so we’re told.
This theory, while valid on its surface, ignores the fact that smoking is addictive and habit-forming. As a former smoker, I can guarantee you that having 10 cigarettes in my pockets when going out was cause to buy another pack, not cut down!
Another theory takes full advantage of the fact that governments are out to milk us through cigarettes, even as they pretend to want to make us quit smoking. 20 cigarettes are obviously more expensive, and thus generate more taxes, than a pack with 10 cigarettes would. If a mythical smoker was comfortable buying 10 cigarettes at a time (which I’m not sure is widespread) then why would the government reduce its revenue?
In conclusion, I don’t believe that smaller packs would lead to less smoking from established smokers, and I’m certain that it would increase the number of smokers, overall. Such cigarettes would be labeled ‘trial packs’ or some such, and could very well be named ‘starter packs’, because that’s exactly what they would be.