Higher Cigarette Taxes Don't Faze Certain Age, Income Groups

Guy smoking a cigarette
(Image credit: Morguefile)

Wealthy people and adults ages 25 to 44 aren't deterred by cigarette taxes, continuing to light up despite the climbing price of a pack, a new Canadian study finds.

The study focused on the long-term impact of taxing cigarettes and found that higher taxes encourage low-and middle-income earners to quit. However, price increases do not persuade wealthier smokers to quit, according to researchers from Concordia University in Montreal.

In the United States, cigarettes are subjected to state and federal taxes, with New York having the highest cigarette tax of all U.S. states, at an average of $4.35 per pack, while Missouri at $0.17 per pack has the lowest state cigarette tax. [Infographic: Who Still Smokes? Smokers in the US Today]

"Overall, it was smokers from lower socioeconomic groups who are more price-responsive than those from higher socioeconomic groups," study researcher Mesbah Sharaf said in a statement. But the numbers of low-and middle-income smokers who kick the habit in response to higher taxesdo add up.

"If there is a 10 percent increase in taxes, then smoking participation will fall by about 2.3 percent," Sharaf said.

After examining data from the National Population Health Survey conducted from 1998 to 1999 and 2008 to 2009, the researchers analyzed three age groups of daily smokers: ages 12 to 24; 25 to 44; and 45 to 65.

The findings showed that, of the three groups, people ages 25 to 44 kept puffing away even when faced with higher cigarette taxes.

The study also found that people with a postsecondary education, such as a bachelor's or associate's degree, were less likely to smoke than those who did not finish high school.

"The lowest percentage of smokers can be found among women who are married, older, with high income and more education," study researcher Sunday Azagba said.

The findings, which were announced this week, were detailed online May 16 in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

You can follow LiveScience writer Remy Melina on Twitter @remymelina. Follow LiveScience for the latest in science news and discoveries on Twitter @livescienceand on Facebook.

Remy Melina was a staff writer for Live Science from 2010 to 2012. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Communication from Hofstra University where she graduated with honors.