The latest research suggests that just adding $1 to the current price of a packet of cigarettes ‘could help millions of smokers quit’. “Older adult smokers have been smoking for a long time and tend to have lower rates of smoking cessation compared to younger populations, suggesting deeply entrenched behaviour that is difficult to change,” said Dr Stephanie Mayne, who led the study at Drexel University in Philadelphia.
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The researchers looked at smokers between the ages of 44 and 84, from six different locations across the US, amongst which Chicago and New York. They took note of the cigarette prices and smoking rates over a span of ten years in order to look for a possible correlation, and their findings suggest that smokers are 20% more likely to quit if cigarette prices went up as little as $1 a pack.
Determined smokers will switch to cheaper brands and products
However, other data indicates otherwise. A recent a study by researchers from King’s College London, the University of Bath and the UK Centre for Tobacco & Alcohol Studies in Nottingham, indicates that there is enough variety in prices of combustible tobacco to suit everyone’s budgets.
The research which was published in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research pointed out that smokers on a budget have several options, including cheaper cigarette brands and roll-your-own tobacco. Hence increasing cigarette prices may not necessarily encourage smokers to quit, but just prompt them to switch to cheaper brands or products.
“Increasing tobacco prices is known to be one of the best deterrents to reduce smoking, but an increase in availability of cheaper products in conventional stores in response to this appears to be thwarting public health campaigns.” said lead author, Dr Timea Partos from the Addictions Department at King’s College London, adding, “Policy-makers need to focus on regulating tobacco prices so that the tobacco industry is not able to undermine tax increases by offering such a wide range of cigarette prices.”
Smoking rates in OZ are up, despite increased cigarette prices
Additionally, data hailing all the way from Australia, a country known to have stringent no smoking regulations and the highest cigarette prices in the world, also indicates that increased prices do not deter seasoned smokers.
Smoking rates in Australia have risen by over 21,000 to 2.4 million between 2013 and 2016. “For the first time ever, there has been no statistically significant reduction in the smoking rate, and an increase in the number of smokers in Australia,” said Colin Mendelsohn, an expert in public health at the University of New South Wales whilst pointing out that for the first time, the smoking rates in Australia have exceeded those in the US. “This is despite plain packaging and the most expensive cigarette prices in the world.” A packet of cigarettes in Australia costs an average of $25.10, while in the UK it would cost $14.80 and $8.50 in the US.
Harm reduction proven to be the most effective strategy
In line with the above, Public Health experts have been insisting that prohibition does not work, harm reduction does. In fact data from the US and the UK, where smokers have been switching to vaping in order to quit, clearly indicates that since the advent of e-cigarettes, smoking rates have been steadily on the decline. In fact, the UK which fully endorses the products for smoking cessation, is now boasting the lowest smoking rates ever recorded since the 70’s, and the second lowest rates in Europe.