A STUDY PUBLISHED ONLINE in the American Journal of Public Health suggests that increasing cigarette taxes could be an effective way to reduce smoking among individuals with alcohol, drug or mental disorders. The study by UCLA researchers found that a 10-percent increase in cigarette pricing resulted in an 18.2-percent decline in smoking among people in these groups.
“Whatever we can do to reduce smoking is critical to the health of the U.S.,” says Michael Ong, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine. “Cigarette taxes are used as a key policy instrument to get people to quit smoking, so understanding if people will really quit is important. Individuals with alcohol, drug or mental disorders compose 40 percent of remaining smokers, and there is little literature on how to help these people quit smoking.”
The researchers based their work on data from 7,530 individuals from the 2000-01 Healthcare for Communities Household Survey. Of those, 2,106 people, or 23 percent, had alcohol, drug or mental disorders during the previous year. Of that group, 43.8 percent were smokers – a much higher proportion than among the rest of the population. Though the researchers found that people with alcohol dependence did not cut down on cigarettes when prices rose, people with binge-drinking problems, substance-use disorders and mental disorders were significantly more likely to quit smoking if prices rose, as would occur with an increase in cigarette taxes.