BMC Public Health
The cost of cigarettes has been cited as a motivating factor for smokers to quit smoking, and a cigarette tax increase is an effective way to increase the cost of cigarettes. Scholars have suggested that smokers may see cigarette tax increases as commitment devices to help them quit smoking. Little is known about whether smokers actually think cigarette tax increases help them quit, and whether this perception predicts subsequent smoking cessation behaviors. We used data from the Minnesota Adult Tobacco Survey Cohort Study collected after the 2009 federal tobacco tax increase to answer these questions.
In 2009, 727 smokers were asked whether they thought the federal tobacco tax increase helped them to: (1) think about quitting, (2) cut down on cigarettes, and (3) make a quit attempt. We also collected data on demographics, number of cigarette price-minimizing strategies used, and cigarette consumption. In 2010, we assessed if these smokers had made a quit attempt, had cut down on their cigarette consumption, and had stopped smoking. Logistic regression models were used to assess the characteristics associated with the perceptions that the tax increase was helpful in assisting smoking cessation, and the association between these perceptions in 2009 and cessation behaviors in 2010.
Overall, 65% of the sample thought that the 2009 tax increase helped them think about quitting, 47% thought it helped them cut down on cigarettes, and 29% thought it helped them make a quit attempt. Lower education, lower income, lower cigarette consumption, and using more cigarette price-minimizing strategies were associated with the perceptions that the tax increase was helpful in assisting smoking cessation (p < 0.05). Smokers who perceived the tax increase as helpful in assisting smoking cessation were more likely than those who did not perceive the tax increase as helpful to report making a quit attempt in 2010 (p < 0.05).
A significant proportion of smokers in our sample thought the 2009 federal tobacco tax increase was helpful in assisting smoking cessation, particularly among smokers of lower socio-economic status. Health communication interventions to promote cigarette tax increases as an opportunity for smoking cessation may further assist quit attempts.