Background: About half of all US states have cigarette minimum price laws (MPLs) that require a per cent mark-up on prices, but research suggests they may not be very effective in raising prices. An alternative type of MPL sets a floor price below which packs cannot be sold, and may be more promising. This new type of MPL policy has only been implemented in 1 city, therefore its benefits relative to excise taxes is difficult to assess.
Methods: We constructed a set of possible state floor price MPL options, and matched them to possible state excise tax hikes designed to produce similar average price increases. Using self-reported price and cigarette consumption data from 23 521 participants in the 2010-2011 Tobacco Use Supplement of the Current Population Survey, we projected changes in pack prices and cigarette consumption following implementation of each paired MPL and tax option, for lower and higher income groups.
Results: We project that state MPLs set at the average reported pack price would raise prices by $0.33 and reduce cigarette consumption by about 4%; a tax with a similar average price effect would reduce consumption by 2.3%. MPLs and taxes that raise average prices by more than $2.00 would reduce consumption by 15.9% and 13.5%, respectively. In all models, we project that MPLs will reduce income-based smoking disparities more than their comparable excise taxes.
Conclusions: Floor price cigarette MPLs set at or above what consumers currently report paying could reduce both tobacco use and socioeconomic disparities in smoking.
Keywords: Price; Public policy; Socioeconomic status; Taxation.
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