NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Higher Cigarette Prices Only Partially Discouraged Teen Smoking

March 21, 2001

Experts have looked at the relationship between higher cigarette prices and smoking by teens. The implications of the statistics are murky, leading some analysts to the conclusion that teens will continue to do what is fashionable among their peers, rather than quit because of costs.

Following are a few of the conclusions of Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist Jonathan Gruber, editor of the forthcoming National Bureau of Economic Research's "Risky Behavior Among Youths: An Economic Analysis."

  • Gruber calculates that about one-fourth of the mid-1990s increase in teen smoking can be explained by a downward blip in cigarette prices between 1992 and 1993.
  • But overall, while cigarette prices were rising more or less steadily from a price-adjusted $1.53 per pack in 1975 to $3.28 per pack in 2001, the proportion of 12th-graders smoking daily only fell from 26.9 percent to 20.6 percent.
  • Price apparently played little role in the earlier dramatic decline in teen smoking between 1975 and 1981.

Source: Peter Brimelow, "Charticle: The Price of Risky Behavior," Forbes, March 5, 2001.

 

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