How do smokers control their cigarette expenditures?

Nicotine Tob Res. 2005 Aug;7(4):625-35. doi: 10.1080/14622200500184333.


When faced with high cigarette prices, smokers can potentially control cigarette expenditures by limiting consumption or seeking cheaper cigarettes. The present study examined both these options and whether the use of price-minimizing strategies (the second option) could counteract a further price increase without smokers having to reduce consumption. Data for 5,109 smokers who purchased manufactured cigarettes were from the 2002 cross-sectional, population-based, random-digit-dialed California Tobacco Survey. We used logistic regression to examine which smokers used consumption-limiting or price-minimizing strategies, and multiple linear regression to determine how much price-minimizing strategies reduced the average price paid per pack. Overall, 32.3% of California smokers said they limited consumption and 74.1% used at least one of the five price-minimizing strategies identified: choosing cheaper retail outlets (61.1%), using promotional offers (35.2%), choosing cheaper brands (28.7%), purchasing by the carton (27.7%), and using low-tax or nontaxed sources (6.3%). Different groups of smokers used different strategies. Except for the use of promotional offers, all price-minimizing strategies significantly reduced the price paid per pack. Carton purchasers saved 1.01 US dollars/pack, and those buying from low-tax or nontaxed sources saved 1.23 US dollars/pack. However, pack buyers were reluctant to purchase cartons, mostly because they thought they might smoke too much, or because they considered the upfront cost unaffordable. The average California smoker could potentially save 0.33-0.66 US dollars/pack or 6.00-12.00 US dollars/month by using other price-minimizing strategies. Reducing consumption by 3 cigarettes/day could save a smoker 18.00 US dollars/month. Whereas price-minimizing strategies appeared to save money, cutting consumption could save even more. Thus further substantial tax increases would likely have the desired effect.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude to Health*
  • California / epidemiology
  • Commerce / statistics & numerical data
  • Cost Savings / methods
  • Cost Savings / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Smoking / economics*
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Smoking Cessation / economics*
  • Smoking Cessation / statistics & numerical data
  • Smoking Prevention
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Taxes