Titled, “Switch, Reduce or Quit: How do smokers respond to tobacco tax increases in Pakistan,” the study revealed that a 50% increase in price would lead to the same percentage in smoking reduction. The researchers said that the majority of smokers would prefer quitting altogether than switching to other brands.

Allegedly, only 9% of smokers would switch brands, while the rest would either quit or reduce the amount they smoke. Out of the 9% who said they would switch, around 15% would switch to non-tobacco products. Hence, concluded the report, the switching rate across brands and other tobacco products would only equate to 7%.

Another study suggests increased prices could save millions of lives

Similarly, a 2018 study published in BMJ, suggests that increasing the cost of a pack of cigarettes by 50% would encourage millions to quit smoking. Study author Prof Prabhat Jha, from the University of Toronto and St Michael’s Hospital, says that increased cigarette prices would not only save millions of lives, but also lead to an improved financial situation for many.

The compiled data had indicated that the raised prices would lead to about 450 million years of life gained across the 13 countries, half of which in China. “Not only does increasing tobacco taxation reduce smoking and its health consequences, but the study’s findings are also relevant to the United Nations sustainable development goals to reduce poverty and improve health,” said one of the study authors.

Increased smoking rates in Australia, despite high cigarette prices

However, data from Australia seem to indicate otherwise. In August 2017 renowned expert in Public Health from the University of New South Wales, Dr. Colin Mendelsohn, pointed out that increased cigarette prices are clearly not deterring people from smoking. In fact figures obtained from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, sadly suggest that local smoking rates are on the rise, despite Australia’s above average cigarette prices.

“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 Mendelsohn at the time. For the first time ever, he added, 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 costing $14.80 and $8.50 in the UK and US respectively. 

Australian Economists Call For Streamlined Cigarette Prices 

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