There's no end of health reasons to stop smoking cigarettes, but tobacco has a way of keeping its hold over some people. However, according to a new study out of Drexel University, one economic factor may help the holdouts to quit: Raising the price of a carton of cigarettes by just one dollar made older adult smokers (age 44 to 84) about 20 percent more likely to stop.
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The researchers looked at smokers in six different regions, ranging from rural to suburban to urban, and followed their habits over 10 years. Raising the price of cartons had a number of other effects, including heavy smokers smoking more than one-third fewer cigarettes per day and a small decrease in risk of smoking overall. Although this study focused on older adults, the researchers speculate that younger adults, including millennials, may be more price-sensitive and could show greater responses to cost and tax increases on tobacco. (It's not often that the economic hit our generation has taken may have a tangible side benefit.)
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2015, about 15 percent of American adults overall smoked cigarettes. Breaking that down even further, about 13 percent of young adults ages 18 to 24 were smokers, with nearly 18 percent of adults 25 to 44 smoking cigarettes. The likelihood of being a smoker is also closely tied to poverty levels; more than a quarter of U.S. adults who live belong the poverty line smoked every day or every few days in 2015.
At smokefree.gov, the National Institutes of Health offers a smoking cessation calculator, which shows how much you can save based on your habits and what you pay per pack. One month can show significant enough results, but this tool shows your savings up to twenty years — which can go at least five figures. That's not even including saving on health costs associating with smoking, from insurance premiums to treatments.
The Drexel researchers hope this information can persuade cities and states to look closely at raising cigarette prices as a public health issue. State and local taxes on tobacco vary wildly nationwide. But that's a policy debate — for now, if you needed any additional convincing, saving enough to pay off some credit cards may be as good as reason to quit as any.