'Cigarettes are priority': a qualitative study of how Australian socioeconomically disadvantaged smokers respond to rising cigarette prices

Health Educ Res. 2015 Aug;30(4):599-608. doi: 10.1093/her/cyv026. Epub 2015 Jun 25.


Despite substantial modelling research assessing the impact of cigarette taxes on smoking rates across income groups, few studies have examined the broader financial effects and unintended consequences on very low-income smokers. This study explored how socioeconomically disadvantaged smokers in a high-income country manage smoking costs on limited budgets. Semi-structured face-to-face interviews were conducted with 20 smokers recruited from a welfare organization in NSW, Australia. Participants discussed perceived impact of tobacco costs on their essential household expenditure, smoking behaviour and quit cognitions. Interviews were audio-taped, transcribed verbatim and analysed using thematic framework analysis. Instances of smoking-induced deprivation and financial stress, such as going without meals, substituting food choices and paying bills late in order to purchase cigarettes were reported as routine experiences. Price-minimization strategies and sharing tobacco resources within social networks helped to maintain smoking. Participants reported tobacco price increases were good for preventing uptake, and that larger price rises and subsidized cessation aids were needed to help them quit. Socioeconomically disadvantaged smokers engage in behaviours that exacerbate deprivation to maintain smoking, despite the consequences. These data do not suggest a need to avoid tobacco taxation, rather a need to consider how better to assist socioeconomically disadvantaged smokers who struggle to quit.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Budgets*
  • Commerce
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New South Wales / epidemiology
  • Poverty
  • Qualitative Research
  • Smoking / economics*
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Smoking / psychology
  • Smoking Cessation / economics
  • Smoking Cessation / psychology
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Taxes / economics
  • Tobacco Products / economics*
  • Vulnerable Populations
  • Young Adult