Higher Cost of Cigarettes Would Deter Young Smokers

Tobacco prices, restrictions and use among youth

From 1993 to 1995, researchers at the National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc., North Aurora, Ill., analyzed data of surveys of college and high school students and found that higher cigarette excise taxes, which raise cigarette prices, would result in substantial reductions in both smoking participation and average daily cigarette consumption among teenagers and young adults.

The project was part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's (RWJF) national program Tobacco Policy Research and Evaluation Program.

Economic analyses were performed using data from two surveys:

  • The 1993 College Alcohol Study, a nationally representative sample of 17,592 students in 140 US colleges and universities.
  • The annual Monitoring the Future survey of twelfth graders in 1982 and eighth, tenth, and twelfth graders in 1992, totaling 60,000 respondents mostly ages 14 to 18.

Key Findings:

  • Cigarette prices have a negative and statistically significant impact on smoking among youths and young adults.
  • A 10 percent increase in price would reduce smoking among college students by more than 5 percent and reduce the number of cigarettes consumed among college-age smokers by approximately 4 to 8 percent.
  • Similarly, any increase in the price of cigarettes leads to significant reductions in smoking among teens.
  • Young men are more sensitive to price than young women, particularly in the youngest age group.
  • In the eighth, tenth, and twelfth grade surveys, black youth were found to be nearly three times more sensitive to price than their white counterparts.
  • Relatively stringent limits on smoking in public places can influence the decision to smoke by young adults.