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Higher cigarette prices are effective in reducing the initiation of regular smoking.

Increases in cigarette prices have been found to decrease adolescent smoking initiation and to prevent young smokers from moving beyond experimentation into regular daily smoking. A recent US study found that higher cigarette prices slow down the transition from light to heavy smoking and deter transitions in both intensity and frequency. Price increases can prevent young smokers from increasing their level of addiction to nicotine by preventing the move from the category of light smokers (~<5 cigarettes per day) to the category of heavy smokers (~>15 cigarettes per day). Smoking initiation among adolescent males has been more responsive to changes in cigarette prices than has initiation among adolescent females. A Canadian study concluded that the likelihood of smoking initiation among young adults aged 20 to 24 years increased after tobacco tax cuts led to lower cigarette prices, and that the magnitude of the impact is related to the size of the price reduction.

A recent methodological review concluded that existing studies do not provide strong evidence that tobacco prices or taxes affect smoking onset. However, the study examined only initiation or onset and did not include literature on the transition to regular smoking.

Tauras JA, O’Malley P, Johnston L. Effects of Price and Access Laws on Teenage Smoking Initiation: A National Longitudinal Analysis (June 2001). NBER Working Paper No. W8331.

Zhang B, Cohen J, Ferrence R, Rehm J. The impact of tobacco tax cuts on smoking initiation among Canadian young adults. Am J Prev Med. 2006;30(6): 474-479.

IARC Handbooks of Cancer Prevention, Tobacco Control, Vol. 14: Effectiveness of Tax and Price Policies for Tobacco Control. (2011: Lyon, France).

Tauras JA. Can public policy deter smoking escalation among young adults? J Policy Anal Manage. 2005 Fall;24(4):771-84.

Cawley J, Markowitz S, Tauras J. Lighting up and slimming down: the effects of body weight and cigarette prices on adolescent smoking initiation. J Health Econ. 2004 Mar;23(2):293-311.

Shang Ce. Smoking Transitions in intensity and frequency by teenagers and young adults (October 12, 2012). Available at SSRN: or

Guindon GE. The impact of tobacco prices on smoking onset: a methodological review. Tob Control. 2014; 23: e5.

Vellios N, van Walbeek C. Determinants of regular smoking onset in South Africa using duration analysis. BMJ Open. 2016 Jul 18;6(7):e011076. logo
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