-- Robert Preidt
TUESDAY, Dec. 4 (HealthDay News) -- Boosting cigarettes taxes
may cause heavy smokers to cut back more than lighter smokers,
researchers have found.
The finding is surprising because it's long been believed that
heavy smokers would be most resistant to cigarette price increases,
said Patricia Cavazos-Rehg, a research assistant professor of
psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine in St.
She and her team looked at data from more than 7,000 smokers who
were initially asked how much they smoked and then asked the same
question three years later.
"On average, everyone was smoking a little less" at the three-year follow-up, Cavazos-Rehg said in a university news release. "But when we factored in price changes from tax increases, we found that the heaviest smokers responded to price increases by cutting back the most."
At the start of the study, the typical smoker averaged 16
cigarettes a day. That fell to 14 per day after three years. During
that time, the average price for a pack of cigarettes increased
from $3.96 in 2001 to $4.41 in 2004. Most of that increase came
from state taxes.
Heavy smokers -- with a habit of more than 40 cigarettes, or two
packs a day -- would have been expected to reduce their consumption
by 11 cigarettes a day even without a price hike. In states where
cigarette taxes rose by at least 35 percent, however, heavy smokers
reduced their consumption by an average of 14 cigarettes per
While the heaviest smokers cut back their cigarette consumption
by an average of 35 percent in response to higher taxes, smokers
with a habit of 20 cigarettes, or one pack per day, cut their
consumption by only 15 percent, the investigators found.
No other factors -- such as smoke-free policies -- were as
influential on smoking habits as price, according to the study
published online recently in the journal
But while higher taxes may prompt smokers to cut back, it would
be better if they stopped smoking altogether, Cavazos-Rehg
"We don't know whether there's any health benefit if they continue to smoke, even if they are smoking less. However, if reducing helps an individual to quit eventually, then the health advantage becomes clear," she said.
While the study found an association between higher cigarette
taxes and reductions in cigarettes smoked, it did not prove a
The American Cancer Society offers a
guide to quitting smoking.
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