Cost of cigarettes encouraging smokers to quit, says study

Cigarette prices motivating more quit attempts, study says

The increasing cost of a pack of cigarettes is encouraging one in four adults in England to give up smoking tobacco, a new study suggests.

The survey – carried out by University College London (UCL) – found that health concerns were the key reason people quit smoking, and were reported by more than half the sample (52%) across the entire period.

Concerns about future health were reported by more than one in three (35.5%) compared with one in five (19%) who were motivated by current health problems.

Cost was the next most frequently cited motive, reported by nearly one in four (23%). The average price of a packet of 20 is now more than £14 – and will rise to £16 in 2026.

And while there was little change in the proportion of quit attempts motivated by health concerns across the study period (2018-23), the proportion of quit attempts motivated by cost increased significantly. The study found they rose from just over 19% in March 2018 to just under 25.5% in May 2023.

More affordable

Lead author Dr Sarah Jackson, of the UCL Tobacco & Alcohol Research Group, said: ‘The harmful effects of smoking on health have always been a strong motivator for people wanting to stop smoking. Our data show that cost is another increasingly important influence on people’s quit attempts. This is not surprising, given the pandemic and cost-of-living crisis have put considerable pressure on household budgets over the last few years.

‘The average smoker spends around £20 a week on cigarettes, so quitting smoking offers considerable potential to reduce their outgoings – even if they switch to other nicotine products like e-cigarettes, which are not only less harmful but more affordable.’

The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to have influenced the proportion of respondents reporting health concerns, social factors and cost as motives for trying to stop smoking, the researchers also suggested. 

The proportion of quit attempts motivated by future health concerns increased during 2020 and 2021. The researchers added: ‘It is likely the pandemic made health concerns (an already prevalent motive) even more salient, particularly during its first year when the virus was spreading rapidly and vaccinations were not yet available.’

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