FRIDAY, July 15 (HealthDay News) -- In an attempt to get smokers
to kick the harmful habit, a number of governments have raised
taxes on cigarettes, yet many people remain undeterred by the price
increases, according to a new Canadian study.
But the public health measure has prompted at least some
low-income and middle-income smokers to quit, the researchers
recently reported in the
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public
After gathering information from a Canadian National Population
Health Survey from 1998-1999 to 2008-2009, and analyzing three age
groups of daily smokers (12 to 24 years, 25 to 44 years and 45 to
65 years), researchers from Concordia University in Montreal found
that the 25- to 44-year age group was the least affected by
cigarette taxes. Higher cigarette prices did not dissuade wealthier
smokers from lighting up either, the study found.
"Contrary to most studies, we find that the middle-aged group, which constitutes the largest fraction of smokers in our sample, is largely unresponsive to taxes," study first author Sunday Azagba, a doctoral candidate in the economics department at Concordia, said in a university news release. "While cigarette taxes remain popular with policy makers as a key anti-smoking measure, their effectiveness largely depends on how people respond to them."
Policy makers' efforts to motivate people to quit by raising the
taxes on cigarettes have primarily targeted groups such as high
school students, the study authors noted.
"Overall, it was smokers from lower socioeconomic groups who are more price-responsive than those from higher socioeconomic groups," said study co-author Mesbah Sharaf, also a Ph.D. candidate in the Concordia economics department, in the news release. "If there is a 10 percent increase in taxes, then smoking participation will fall by about 2.3 percent."
People who did not graduate from high school were also more
likely to smoke than those with higher education, the authors
pointed out. "If smokers are sophisticated about their self-control
and responsive to prices, taxes could act as a self-control
incentive for them," said Azagba. "Higher taxes for some people,
when consumption of addictive goods is driven by cues, may be
An estimated 5 million people worldwide die each year because of
smoking-related illnesses, according to the World Health
Organization. These deaths are expected to reach 8 million per year
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