Exploring the Relationship Between Cigarette Prices and Smoking Among Adults: A Cross-Country Study of Low- and Middle-Income Nations

Introduction: Evidence on the relationship between cigarette prices and adult smoking in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) is relatively limited. This study offers new descriptive evidence on this relationship using data from a set of 13 LMICs.

Methods: We use Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) cross-country data from approximately 200,000 participants aged 15 and older. Estimates on the relationship between prices and adult smoking were obtained from logit models of smoking participation and ordinary least squares models of conditional cigarette demand.

Results: Higher prices were associated with lower demand across countries, in terms of both smoking prevalence and daily number of cigarettes smoked among smokers. Our estimates suggest that the total price elasticity of cigarette demand in LMICs is approximately −0.53. We find that higher socioeconomic status (SES), represented through wealth and education effects is associated with lower chance of smoking overall, but among existing smokers, it may be associated with a larger number of cigarettes smoked.

Conclusions: After controlling for a set of individual demographic and country characteristics, cigarette prices retain a significant role in shaping cigarette demand across LMICs. Because higher SES is associated with a reduced chance of smoking overall but also with increased daily consumption among current smokers, optimal tobacco tax policies in LMICs may face an added need to accommodate to shifting SES structures within the populations of these countries.

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January 2014