Single Cigarettes A Sales Strategy, But Not a Quitting One

Apr 15, 2011, 6:23 PM

The New York Times recently published a story about a man named “Lonnie Loosie”. Loosie makes his living selling single cigarettes—two for $1—and has had several jail stints, thanks to the practice, which is a misdemeanor in New York City. (Cigarette packs in New York City, according to the story, can cost as much as $12.50.)

The Times piece raises the question if whether opting for singles rather than packs might be a reliable quitting strategy. At least one study suggests that if it is, it’s not a good one. This 2009 study of Mexican smokers published in Tobacco Control found that Mexican smokers purchase single cigarettes as a method to limit, cut down on and even quit smoking. Nevertheless, promotion of the availability of single cigarettes as a harm reduction strategy provides additional smoking cues that undermine quit attempts and promote youth smoking.

Weigh in: What do you think? Does the availability of single cigarettes promote or inhibit cigarette consumption?

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This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.