Higher cigarette prices reduce cigarette smoking by decreasing smoking prevalence and reducing the number of cigarettes smoked by continuing smokers.
Well over 100 studies from high-income countries have confirmed the inverse relationship between cigarette prices and cigarette smoking. The consensus among researchers working in this area is that a 10% increase in the price of cigarettes in developed countries will result in a 3 to 5% reduction in overall cigarette consumption. Studies that investigate the impact of cigarette prices on smoking prevalence and average smoking intensity among smokers separately generally find that approximately half of the impact of price on overall cigarette demand results from reducing the number of smokers by motivating current smokers to quit and discouraging youths from ever starting to smoke.
Smokers living in areas with higher cigarette prices are significantly more motivated to quit. However, the use of coupons, buying low-tax cigarettes on Native American reservations, or buying cigarettes on the internet,common strategies used by smokers to reduce their out-of-pocket expenses, weaken the impact of price on smoking behavior. For example, smokers who bought cigarettes from Native American reservations were half as likely to make a quit attempt compared with those who bought full-priced cigarettes.
To have a positive impact on public health, cigarette prices need to increase faster than incomes to ensure that cigarettes become less affordable over time.
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