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Do higher prices realy bring down the number of smokers?

Anti-smokers often argue that if you make the price of cigarettes high enough, the number of smokers will decrease, take a look at this page of the WHO for example. The situation in the Netherlands over the last years suggests no correlation between the price of cigarettes and the number of smokers however:

Prices of Cigarettes
per pack of 20 cigarettes
in Dutch Guilders

Number of Smokers
as a percentage of the total population
over 15 years of age

Source: Stivoro

Between 1988 and 1996 the price of a pack of cigarettes has increased by more than 70%!
The number of smokers during that period did not decrease, but increased slightly!


A second comparison

Prices of Cigarettes
per pack of 20 cigarettes
in US Dollars

Number of Smokers
as a percentage of the total population
over 15 years of age

In the Netherlands cigarette prices are fixed by the government. A carton of 200 cigarettes costs 53.50 guilders (oct. 96). At the present exchange rate this ammounts to US$ 31.50. In the US, prices for cartons of 200 cigarettes vary between $13.00 and $20.00.

The number of smokers in the Netherlands amounts to 35% of the population, in the US it is 20-25%.

Thus: while the prices in Holland are 1.6 to 2.4 times higher than in the US, the number of smokers isn't lower, but 40-75% higher!


Conclusion

These figures aren't hard to come by, you can check them easily.
The anti-smoking lobby however still maintains that higher prices will bring the number of smokers down. They base this assumption on surveys in which they ask participants if they would stop smoking if the price of cigarettes went up. The facts however prove that smokers act differently from how they answer in surveys.

Disclaimer 1: I have no relation with the tobacco industry, apart from buying their products and enjoying those products.
Disclaimer 2: A link on this page does not necessarily mean that I agree with the content of the page(s) behind that link.

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E-mail: Kees van der Griendt