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Increased Cigarette Costs and Smoke-Free Homes Reduce Tobacco Consumption

Update Date: Oct 17, 2013 04:07 PM EDT
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Since smoking is the number one leading cause of preventable deaths within the United States, finding ways to get people to quit, smoke less and avoid starting is on the agenda of many government officials and agencies. Even though many people have come up with multiple ways of addressing tobacco consumption, not all of them work. In a new study, researchers from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine reported that high-priced cigarettes and smoke-free homes actually work in reducing tobacco consumption for low-income smokers.

"Living in a state where the average price paid for cigarettes is low ($3.20 or less per pack) means that all smokers, regardless of income, will smoke a lot more than those who live in a state with higher prices," said John P. Pierce, Ph.D., professor and director of population sciences at UC San Diego School of Medicine. "This is the case for those living below the federal poverty level as well as for the wealthy."

The researchers used data from the 2006-2007 Tobacco Use Supplements to the Current Population Survey, which is a monthly survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau. The survey is administered to a nationally representative group or people. From this data, the team examined three sets of supplement data. There were answers from over 150,000 participants who were 18-years-old or older. The responses were self-reports of people's smoking habits and income.

The researchers found that once cigarette packs' costs rose above $4.50, tobacco consumption fell across all levels regardless of income. When the researchers looked at people living in smoke-free homes, they found that these people were more likely to quit and less likely to relapse after quitting. If they did not quit, the numbers showed that they did reduce their consumption.

"First, there's a higher prevalence of smoking in people with lower incomes, which means that there will be more spouses who smoke as well. When both adults smoke, there is much lower motivation to introduce a smoke-free home. Also, social norms against smoking have historically been lower in those with lower incomes," Pierce said. "No one is mandating a smoke-free home. We are telling people that if they really want to quit, then introducing a smoke-free home will help them be successful. This study supports the current policy of increasing (cigarette) prices and building social norms that protect against secondhand smoke. These policies will reduce consumption among all smokers - reducing potential harm - and the ensuing smoke-free homes will help smokers quit successfully."

The study was published in the American Journal of Public Health.

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