Study to investigate effect of cigarette prices rises

By Cassandra Mason

File photo / Brett Phibbs
File photo / Brett Phibbs

With the price of cigarettes set to go up again on New Years' Day, a new survey will look at how smokers are planning to cope with the hikes.

Researchers from the University of Canterbury will be interviewing smokers on their habits now, compared with what they will do next year - and in the years after that, as prices continue to increase.

Postgraduate psychology student Aimee Richardson will be analysing survey results from Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin and on the internet to complete the research.

Researchers hope to interview 110 participants in each location.

Richardson's supervisor, Professor Randolph Grace, said he believed it was the first study to look at the relationship between price and cigarette consumption.

"From an economic perspective, we're trying to determine the demand curve, which can be useful for policy-makers."

He said two surveys, done before and after the price rise, would see whether or not participants' cigarette purchases actually changed in accordance with their initial response.

The study would also look at electronic cigarettes as an alternative that would deliver "a small amount of nicotine without all the other harmful substances," Prof Grace said.

The research team will ask the participants to try an electronic cigarette and then ask them questions about how many regular cigarettes they would buy if they were cheaper than regular cigarettes and widely available, Prof Grace said.

"If we find the e-cigarettes are highly substitutable, that would suggest an effective direction for the Government."

The survey results will be available later next year, with the preliminary results to be presented to an international research meeting in Boston in March and to the Government by April.

"[Richardson's] answers could affect how much government taxes cigarettes in future and whether sales of nicotine electronic cigarettes should be permitted," Prof Grace said.

The research is being funded by Christchurch-based End Smoking NZ Trust, with a grant from the Canterbury Community Trust and the University of Canterbury.

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