Background: Deciding on an appropriate level for taxes on tobacco products is a critical issue in tobacco control. The aim of the present study was to describe the critical price points for packs for smokers of each pack size, to calculate what this would equate to in terms of price per stick, and to ascertain whether price points varied by age, socio-economic status and heaviness of smoking.
Methods: In November 2011, 586 Victorian smokers of factory-made cigarettes were asked during a telephone survey about their usual brand, including the size and cost of their usual pack. They were also asked about use of illicit tobacco. Smokers estimated what price their preferred pack would need to reach before they would seriously consider quitting.
Results: Three-quarters of regular smokers of manufactured cigarettes could envisage their usual brand reaching a price at which they would seriously consider quitting. Analyses revealed that answers clustered around whole numbers, (AUD$15, $20, $25 and $30), with a median nominated price point of AUD$20 per pack. The median price point at which regular smokers would consider quitting was calculated to be 80 cents per stick, compared to the current median reported stick price of 60 cents.Of the smokers who nominated a price point, 60.1% indicated they would seriously consider quitting if the cost of their usual brand equated to 80 cents per stick or less; 87.5% would seriously consider quitting if sticks reached one dollar each.
Conclusions: These results do suggest a potentially useful approach to setting taxes in Australia. If taxes can be set high enough to ensure that the cost of the smokers' preferred packs exceeds critical price points, then it seems likely that more people would seriously attempt to quit than if the price increased to a level even slightly below the price points. Our study suggests that a tax increase large enough to ensure that a typical pack of 25 cigarettes in Australia cost at least AUD$20 would prompt more than 60% of smokers able to nominate a price point to seriously think about quitting, with particularly strong effects among low-SES smokers.