Expensive Cigarettes Could Be Great Incentive To Vape, Says Research

Guy Bentley | Research Associate, Reason Foundation

Raising the price of cigarettes relative to e-cigarettes could be useful in nudging smokers to switch to vaping, according to a study published in Nicotine & Tobacco Research.

The study examined six European Union markets to determine how responsive consumers were to rising cigarette and e-cigarette prices from 2011-14.

“Based on static models, every 10 percent increase in e-cigarette prices is associated with a drop in e-cigarettes sales of approximately 8.2 percent while based on dynamic models, the drop is 2.7 percent in the short run and 11.5 percent in the long run,” said the study’s abstract.

If policy makers are in the business of getting people to switch from smoking to vaping, the authors suggest slapping even bigger taxes on tobacco cigarettes while ensuring e-cigarettes are treated more favorably.

“Combustible cigarette prices are positively associated with sales of e-cigarettes. Snus prices are positively associated with sales of e-cigarettes in Sweden,” said the report’s authors.

“E-cigarettes and regular cigarettes are substitutes, with higher cigarette prices being associated with increased e-cigarette sales. Making combustible cigarettes more expensive compared to e-cigarettes could be effective in moving current combustible smokers to e-cigarettes, which might have positive health effects.”

But the study is far from definitive. The researchers only found an “association” between higher cigarette prices and climbing e-cig sales. The study cannot prove a direct link between the two.

A collection of scientists and researchers urged the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) against heavy e-cigarette taxation, arguing it would be bad for public health.

Seven leading tobacco control experts took to the pages of the journal Addiction April 25 to examine the evidence on e-cigarettes. They found the devices cut smoking overall and could slash the number of deaths from tobacco. (RELATED: Doctors Attack E-Cigarette Taxes, Tell FDA To Focus On Benefits Of Vaping)

“We’re concerned the FDA, which has asserted its right to regulate e-cigarettes, will focus solely on the possibility that e-cigarettes and other vapor nicotine products might act as a gateway to cigarette use,” says David Levy, professor in the department of oncology at the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“We believe that the discussion to date has been slanted against e-cigarettes, which is unfortunate because the big picture tells us that these products appear to be used mostly by people who already are or who are likely to become cigarette smokers,” adds Levy.

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