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.
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.
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.
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.
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.