Is price a motivator to quit smoking?

by | Drug and Alcohol, Quit Smoking, What We're Talking About

You would have seen the dramatic increase in the price of cigarettes and tobacco over the past few years, but has it made a difference in how much people smoke?

A new study from the University of Queensland looking at what motivates people to change their smoking behaviours suggests that the increasing price of tobacco products has played a significant role in people either quitting smoking or reducing their tobacco consumption.

There has been a long-term downward trend in the number of people smoking since 1991 (24%). According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ National Health Survey, the prevalence of daily smoking for Australians aged 18 and over in 2020–21 was 10.7%. Men were more likely to smoke daily than women (12.6% compared to 8.8%).

Researchers looked at self-reported data from the National Drug Strategy Households Surveys from 2007 to 2019, considering the frequency, quantity and type of tobacco smoked. They also looked at the timing and success of attempts to reduce or quit smoking, the motivations of those attempting to do so, and what motivates those without a current intent to quit to change their mind. They also considered factors like education, income and general health.

Over the years, nearly 17,000 adults were identified as trying to change their smoking behaviour. Those whose motivation to change was based on the cost of smoking rose from 38% to 57% between 2007 and 2019, with the hefty price the most common reason provided since 2013. Before this, health concerns were the main reason people sought to quit or limit their smoking. Those who were not attempting to reduce or quit smoking said health and cost were the most likely reasons they may want to quit in future.

These changing trends demonstrate that the rising cost of smoking is an important motivator for people to quit. This effect was strongest for people living in lower income areas, heavy smokers, those who also drank alcohol, and those with high levels of psychological distress.

These behavioural insights could form the foundation of future quit-smoking campaigns as smokers consider wealth as well as health a reason to quit.