Are price increases enough to deter smokers?

ANTI-SMOKING campaigners are hopeful that last week’s 20 per cent increase in the price of cigarettes will finally push the 29 per cent of the population who smoke regularly into quitting.

The bill that was rushed through parliament on December 10 may have been motivated by the need to increase annual revenue by an estimated €31 million, but Stelios Sikallides, executive secretary of the anti-smoking lobby of the Anti-Cancer Association Cyprus, hopes the benefits will be far more long reaching.

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“Of course it will affect smokers as international studies show that, without a doubt, as the price of cigarettes increases, consumption decreases,” said Stelios Sikallides, executive secretary of the anti-smoking lobby of the Anti-Cancer Association Cyprus.

“Cyprus is no exception,” he added.

He explained that the association constantly put in applications for an increase in prices, in an effort to deter people but they tended to go unheeded. “Even if there was an increase it was not enough, so we congratulate the Ministry for this,” said Sikallides.

Although cigarettes have gone by between 40 to 60 cents a packet, prices here are still far cheaper than elsewhere in Europe apart from Eastern European countries such as Poland, which has the cheapest cigarettes at €1.85. More along Cyprus’ price range are countries such as Portugal at €3.40 and Greece at €3.12. Ireland has the most expensive cigarettes at around €8.21 and England at ?6.29 for a standard pack of 20 cigarettes.

Studies conducted in England on the increase of price on cigarettes versus consumption rates, however, show that expensive cigarettes do not necessarily deter smokers. In 1994 cigarettes in the UK cost around ?2.50, with price hikes reaching ?4.00 by 2000. According to statistics by the Office for National Statistics (ONS)in Britain smoking incidence fell a measly 5 per cent from 1994 to 2006.

Like Cyprus, France is another nation of cigarette lovers. France’s serious move to ban smoking came with a 20 per cent increase in cigarette prices in 2003. Apparently the rise in prices was driven by a government concern to lower smoking levels a lot faster than they were actually dropping, and the need to fill an 8.5 billion dollar shortfall. However, surveys say that attitudes only truly changed after the 2007 ban that prevented smoking in work places and other public buildings. Cigarettes currently cost €5.41 in France.

In September, Japan introduced a 40 per cent tax hike, their biggest increase ever. Their most smoked brands will increase from around €2.70 to €3.63. Like many other governments their aim is to make people give up and according to surveys 60 per cent are thinking of doing so.

But talking to smokers themselves, it’s by no means clear that the price increase is enough to make them seriously consider stopping altogether.

“The increase won’t deter me because I would just find other ways; I would start smoking roll ups,” said Constance Hughes. “It would depend on how much a person smokes though.”

“It won’t make me quit but it’ll make me decrease the amount I smoke, although I have actually stocked up,” said Tonia Solea. “It will probably hinder teenagers though because they don’t have that much money.”


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