Objective: To examine cigarette purchasing patterns of current smokers and to determine the effects of cigarette price on use of cheaper sources, discount/generic cigarettes, and coupons.
Background: Higher cigarette prices result in decreased cigarette consumption, but price sensitive smokers may seek lower priced or tax-free cigarette sources, especially if they are readily available. This price avoidance behaviour costs states excise tax money and dampens the health impact of higher cigarette prices.
Methods: Telephone survey data from 3602 US smokers who were originally in the COMMIT (community intervention trial for smoking cessation) study were analysed to assess cigarette purchase patterns, use of discount/generic cigarettes, and use of coupons.
Results: 59% reported engaging in a high price avoidance strategy, including 34% who regularly purchase from a low or untaxed venue, 28% who smoke a discount/generic cigarette brand, and 18% who report using cigarette coupons more frequently that they did five years ago. The report of engaging in a price avoidance strategy was associated with living within 40 miles of a state or Indian reservation with lower cigarette excise taxes, higher average cigarette consumption, white, non-Hispanic race/ethnicity, and female sex.
Conclusion: Data from this study indicate that most smokers are price sensitive and seek out measures to purchase less expensive cigarettes, which may decrease future cessation efforts.