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Effect of price increases on cigarette consumption

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A recent paper published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention described the dramatic increases in tobacco prices over recent years. From the end of 1995 to April 2009 all but 5 states increased their state cigarette taxes (Florida, Missouri, Mississippi, North Dakota and South Carolina didn’t). The average increase over that time period was from 33 cents to $1.20. The state cigarette taxes range from 34 cents (Florida) to $2.75 (New York). Over the same time period the federal tax per pack increased from 24 cents to $1.01, making an overall average tax increase from 57c to $2.21. In addition, the tobacco industry itself has increased its prices (before tax), and many other cities and municipalities have additional taxes. For example, New York city has its own $1.50 tax and Chicago has its own Cook County tax of $2.68.

These increases really took off around 2000, and the recent federal tax increase (which includes all tobacco products) marks the single largest effect on national cigarette prices. When these increases are added to local sales taxes and combined with the widespread lowering in disposable income caused by the economic recession, I believe they will cause a really significant reduction in tobacco consumption in the United States. One effect of such price increases is that smokers smoke fewer cigarettes per day. This may or may not reduce health risks. Another effect is to increase motivation to quit among existing smokers, and another is to decrease interest in initiating regular smoking (primarily on young people).

Of all these effects, the one with the largest initial impact on both individual and population health is stimulation of greater motivation to quit smoking and more quit attempts. Its really only by completely quitting smoking that major health benefits can be achieved. So although these are tough financial times, its important that smokers are given assistance to quit at this key time when finances will provide an extra motivation.

For the smokers out there, its also important that you make use of all the free or low cost help that’s available. This includes things like calling the National Quitline number (800-QUIT-NOW [800-784-8669]), using some of the best
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About the Author


MA, MAppSci, PhD

Dr. Jonathan Foulds is an expert in the field of tobacco addiction.

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