Increase in cigarette prices may reduce smoking in elderly

New York, Aug 19 (IANS) Raising cigarette prices by a dollar can increase the possibility of older people quitting smoking by 20 per cent, researchers say. "Older smokers have been smoking for a long time and tend to have lower rates of smoking cessation compared to younger populations, suggesting deeply entrenched behaviour that is difficult to change," said lead author Stephanie Mayne, a doctoral student at the Northwestern University at Evanston, Illinois. "Our finding that increase in cigarette prices were associated with quitting smoking in the older population suggests cigarette taxes may be a particularly effective lever for behaviour change," Mayne added. The researchers looked at included smokers ranging in age from 44 to 84 and stretched across six different places. In addition to finding that current smokers were 20 per cent more likely to quit smoking when pack prices went up by a dollar, researchers' team showed there was a three per cent overall reduction in smoking risk. However, when the data was narrowed to heavy smokers, there was a seven per cent reduction in risk.  When prices increased by a dollar, heavy smokers also showed a 35 per cent reduction in the average number of cigarettes they smoked per day, compared to 19 per cent less in the overall smoking population. "Since heavy smokers smoke more cigarettes per day initially, they may feel the impact of a price increase to a greater degree and be more likely to cut back on the number of cigarettes they smoke on a daily basis," Mayne explained. According to the senior author on the study, the local relationship between smoking habits and cigarette prices is an understudied but important area to look at. "Results on this topic primarily have come from population surveillance. But we had neighbourhood tobacco price data and could link that to a cohort of individuals who were followed for about 10 years," said Amy Auchincloss, PhD, Associate Professor, Dornsife School of Public Health. Based on results from this study published in the journal Epidemiology, raising cigarette prices appears to be a better strategy for encouraging smoking cessation across all ages.