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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

WashU, UNC: Minimum Per-Pack Price for Cigarettes Could be More Effective at Reducing Smoking

Setting a floor price for a pack of cigarettes could reduce smoking more than tax increases, according to new research from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis and the University of North Carolina.

luke_headshot_hires1 ribisl_kurt
[Photo: Dr. Douglas A. Luke (left) and Dr. Kurt M. Ribisi]

Minimum price laws (MPLs) are in effect in about half of U.S. states, but most rely on taxes, which can be offset by discounts offered by manufacturers or retailers.  A new type of price law sets a floor price below which packs cannot be sold.

Researchers constructed a set of possible state floor price options and matched them to tax increases that would produce similar price increases, using data from participants in a 2010-11 Tobacco Use Supplement of the Current Population Survey.  Then, they projected changes in pack prices and cigarette consumption.

They found that a state floor would reduce cigarette consumption by about 4 percent, while a tax with a similar price effect would reduce consumption by 2.3 percent.  A combination of both would reduce consumption by nearly 16 percent.

“By specifically targeting cheap prices more frequently reported by low-income smokers, MPLs may also be well positioned to reduce income-based smoking disparities, especially if implemented in conjunction with other price policies and low-cost cessation services,” the authors concluded.

Senior authors were Dr. Douglas A. Luke, professor at the Brown School; and Dr. Kurt M. Ribisi, professor at the University of North Carolina.  The paper was published October 10 in Tobacco Control.