When Packs Cost $1 More, 1 in 5 Smokers Quit

Researchers say taxes are more effective than bans
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 24, 2017 6:33 AM CDT
When Packs Cost $1 More, 1 in 5 Smokers Quit
Packs of cigarettes are offered for sale at a convenience store in Helena, Mont., on Thursday, May 18, 2017. The nation's two largest tobacco companies spent $147,000 in the first three months of the state legislative session to kill what would have been its first tobacco tax increase in 12 years.   (AP Photo/Bobby Caina Calvan)

Addiction has many costs, but at least when it comes to cigarettes, price can be a serious deterrent. In fact, one in five people quit smoking if the price of a pack jumps by $1, researchers report in the journal Epidemiology. They looked at the smoking habits of 632 smokers with an average age of 58 and analyzed data about local laws on smoking indoors and in public places, as well as price fluctuations at nearly 900 chain stores in 19 states, reports the New York Times. The impact of price on older smokers is telling, the lead researcher says, since older smokers are likely to be set in their habit. But, "It’s likely that these results would hold in younger people as well—some studies have found them to be even more sensitive to price increases."

"Our finding ... suggests that cigarette taxes may be a particularly effective lever for behavior change," she tells Drexel Now. Researchers note that only 7% of people who smoke heavily (more than half a pack a day) quit when the price jumped, but they did smoke 35% fewer cigarettes each day. Smoking bans didn't have the same effect, probably because people can just smoke in another place, the researchers posit. Meanwhile, Reuters reports that a new study by the World Health Organization and National Cancer Institute finds that smoking costs the global economy $1 trillion a year, well over the $296 billion collected in tobacco taxes. (Even cancer doesn't compel some smokers to quit.)

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