Paying the price: a cross-sectional survey of Australian socioeconomically disadvantaged smokers' responses to hypothetical cigarette price rises

Drug Alcohol Rev. 2014 Mar;33(2):177-85. doi: 10.1111/dar.12103. Epub 2013 Dec 18.


Introduction and aims: Increases in tobacco taxation can lead to reductions in tobacco consumption and prevalence of use across social groups. However, use of price-minimisation strategies to manage current and future tobacco use and the role of financial stress is less understood. This study aimed to measure the effect of cigarette price increases on price-minimisation strategy endorsement and financial stress among socioeconomically disadvantaged smokers.

Design and methods: Community service organisation welfare recipients in NSW, Australia completed a touchscreen survey. Smoking history, financial stress, highest price to quit and responses to hypothetical cigarette price increases were assessed.

Results: Participants were 354 smokers (response rate = 79%). Most participants received income from a government pension (95%), earned <A$300/week (55%), had not completed secondary schooling (64%), were moderately or heavily nicotine-dependent (60%), reported high financial stress (66%) and spent A$56/week on tobacco. In response to 10% and 20% hypothetical price rises, significantly more participants endorsed trying to quit in response to the larger increase scenario (P < 0.001), and fewer selected no change to their smoking (P < 0.001). Numerous price-minimisation strategies (e.g. switching to cheaper brands/products) were endorsed, but remained constant across hypothetical scenarios; level of financial stress appeared to have little influence. Smokers indicating they would not change their smoking in response to price rises had higher levels of nicotine dependence.

Discussion and conclusions: Socially disadvantaged smokers endorsed numerous price-minimising strategies to maintain smoking at hypothetically increased costs. Larger cigarette price rises motivated more smokers to consider quitting, while price-resistant smokers appeared to have a more entrenched smoker status.

Keywords: smoking; social disadvantage; tobacco price.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Australia
  • Commerce / economics*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Poverty
  • Smoking / economics*
  • Smoking Cessation / economics*
  • Social Class
  • Taxes / economics*
  • Tobacco Products / economics*
  • Vulnerable Populations
  • Young Adult