June 22, 2015

Tobacconomics in New Tobacco Control Supplement: The Economics of Tobacco Control (Part 2)

Researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago Institute for Health Research and Policy are authors on several papers published in a special supplement in the July issue of Tobacco Control that discusses finding from the International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation (ITC) Project. The ITC Project, directed by Geoffrey Fong, professor of psychology at the University of Waterloo, Canada, conducts longitudinal surveys of smokers and tobacco users across 22 countries, covering over two-thirds of the world’s tobacco users.

Frank Chaloupka, distinguished professor of economics and director of the Health Policy Center of the UIC Institute for Health Research Policy, the World Health Organization’s only coordinating center for tobacco economics, is an author on many of the papers in the special supplement.

“Twenty-two percent of the world population still smokes, and nearly 80 percent of the world’s one billion smokers live in low- and middle-income countries, so there’s considerable room for effective tobacco control policies to reduce smoking rates globally, but we need to know what policies are most effective,” says Chaloupka. “That is why it is important that we study and understand the effects of different policies, especially in developing countries where tobacco companies are not as regulated in how they market their products as they are in high-income countries like Australia, Canada, and the UK, where tobacco control policies are quite strong.”

Read about the findings published in the special supplement of Tobacco Control by UIC IHRP researchers:

  • The Malaysian minimum price law, which went into effect in 2011, appears not to have meaningfully changed cigarette prices in Malaysia as intended. Legal brand prices remained well above and illicit brand prices remained well below the minimum price level before and after the laws was implemented. The proportion of illicit cigarettes on the market increased in response to the law, possibly undermining its intention. The researchers suggest using a specific tax to increase prices and decrease smoking, as this tax structure has been shown to be effective at doing.
  • Relative to other low-income and middle-income countries, cigarette consumption among Chinese adult smokers is not as sensitive to changes in cigarette prices. No differences in response to cigarette price increases were found across education levels. The price elasticity estimates do not differ between high-income smokers and medium-income smokers. Cigarette consumption among low-income smokers did not decrease after a price increase, at least among those who continued to smoke.
  • Mauritius has made great strides in adopting evidence-based tobacco control measures, including an increase in its cigarette excise tax and anti-tobacco mass media (Sponge) campaign. The combination of cigarette tax increases and the Sponge campaign significantly reduced the prevalence of smoking in Mauritius and the number of cigarettes smoked among continuing smokers.
  • Little research has been done to examine whether smokers switch to illegal or roll-your-own (RYO) cigarettes in response to a change in their relative price. In Uruguay, a 10 percent increase in the relative price ratio of legal to RYO cigarettes is associated with a 4.6 percent increase in the probability of consuming RYO cigarettes over manufactured legal cigarettes. In addition, more exposure to antismoking messaging is associated with reduced likelihood of choosing RYO cigarettes over manufactured legal cigarettes.
  • A study examining trends in cigarette prices and corresponding purchasing patterns between 2002 and 2011 in the US found that as cigarette prices have risen, smokers have begun purchasing via multipacks instead of cartons. As carton sales have declined, purchases from grocery and discount stores have also declined, while an increasing number of smokers report low tax sources as their usual purchase location for cigarettes. Compared with those purchasing by single packs, smokers who purchased by multipacks and cartons saved an average of $0.53 and $1.63, respectively. Purchases in grocery and discount stores declined, while purchases in tobacco only outlets increased slightly. Smokers who were female, older, or white were more likely to purchase cigarettes by the carton or in multipacks and in locations commonly associated with tax avoidance (ie, duty free shops, Indian reservations).

In addition to Chaloupka and Fong, co-authors on the papers mentioned above include Alex C. Liber, Hana Ross, Maizurah Omar, Jidong Huang, Rose Zheng, Yuan Jiang, Monica E. Cornelius, Pete Driezen,  Andy Hyland, K. Michael Cummings, Dardo Curti, Ce Shang, William Ridgeway, Sunday Azagba, and Premduth Burhoo.

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