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Teenagers who experiment with smoking or smoke only infrequently are unlikely to be dissuaded by price increases because they mostly "bum" cigarettes, according to researcher Ian Liang, PhD., of the University of Illinois at Chicago, in a news release.
"Regular smokers, on the other hand, are more likely to purchase their own cigarettes," Liang said. "When the amount of money they spend on cigarettes constitutes a larger share of their budgets, economic theory predicts that they will be more responsive to price."
In their study, Liang and colleagues analyzed data from the Monitoring the Future surveys of 8th, 10th and 12th grade students. The survey collects data on a nationally representative sample of 15,000 to 19,000 students per grade each year.
Teenagers who lived in areas where taxes pushed the per-pack cost above $2.32 were about 13 percent less likely to smoke any cigarettes than teenagers living in areas with prices below $2.07. Of teens who smoked one pack or more a day, those living in high-tax areas were 30 percent less likely to smoke that pack than teens in low-tax areas.
One limitation: The study does not consider teens who smoke more or less than a pack a day, researchers say. However, given these estimates, "it is likely that there are further differences between teens who smoke one pack of cigarettes per day and those who smoke two packs per day," Liang writes in his study.
Overall, the study shows that hiking cigarette prices is effective in discouraging teens from becoming heavier smokers, he says.