When the price of a pack of cigarette increases by $1, there is a 20 percent increase in rates of quitting smoking.
Researchers linked data on the smoking habits of 632 smokers, average age 58, to neighborhood cigarette prices in 896 chain grocery and drugstores in 19 states. They gathered data on local laws on indoor smoking in public places, and followed changes in prices, laws and smoking habits over 10 years.
The study, in Epidemiology, found that a $1 increase in price was linked to a 7 percent reduction in the risk of heavy smoking (10 cigarettes or more a day), and a 35 percent reduction in the average number of cigarettes smoked by heavy smokers.
At the same time, they found no effect of price on smoking relapse, and local smoking bans had little impact on any of their estimates.
The lead author, Stephanie Mayne, a postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern University, said the impact of price increases on older smokers is important, since older people are likely to be long-term smokers and may be harder to motivate to quit.
She added, “It’s likely that these results would hold in younger people as well — some studies have found them to be even more sensitive to price increases.”