Introduction: Smoking rates and tobacco-related health problems vary by race and ethnicity. We explore whether cigarette prices, a determinant of tobacco use, differ across racial and ethnic groups, and whether consumer behaviors influence these differences.
Methods: We used national Tobacco Use Supplement data from 23 299 adult smokers in the United States to calculate average reported cigarette pack prices for six racial and ethnic groups. Using multivariate regression models, we analyzed the independent effect of race and ethnicity on price, and whether these effects changed once indicators of carton purchasing, menthol use, Indian reservation purchase, and state market prices were incorporated.
Results: American Indians and whites pay similar amounts and report the lowest prices. Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians reported paying $0.42, $0.68, and $0.89 more for a pack of cigarettes than whites. After accounting for differences in consumer behaviors, these gaps shrunk to $0.27, $0.29, and $0.27, respectively, while American Indians paid $0.38 more than whites. Pack buying was associated with $0.99 higher per-pack prices than carton buying, which was most common among whites. Additionally, people who purchased off an Indian reservation reporting paying $1.54 more than those who purchased on reservation.
Conclusions: Average reported cigarette prices vary by race and ethnicity, in part due to differences in product use and purchase location. Tobacco price policies, especially those that target low prices for multipack products or on Indian reservations may increase the prices paid by whites and American Indians, who smoke at the highest rates and pay the least per pack.
Implications: This study examines differences in reported prices paid by different racial and ethnic groups, using recent, national data from the United States. Results indicating that racial and ethnic groups that smoke at the highest rates (American Indians and whites) also pay the least are consistent with evidence that price is a key factor in cigarette use. Additional analysis finds that cigarette purchasing behaviors, especially carton buying and purchasing on Indian reservations, partially account for the documented price differences, and suggest that policies focused on bulk purchases (carton, multipack) and reservation prices have strong tobacco control potential.
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