The effect of price on the consumption of reduced nicotine cigarettes

Steven A. Branstetter, Russell Nye, Joseph J. Sipko, Joshua E. Muscat

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: Price affects the demand for cigarettes, indicating that smokers, perhaps especially lower income smokers, may choose low nicotine cigarettes (LNC) if they were commercially available and cost less than fully nicotinized conventional cigarettes. The present study tests the hypothesis that smokers will prefer purchasing LNCs at a lower price point than conventional cigarettes given a fixed budget. Method: A laboratory-based, within-subject, 3 (nicotine level) × 3 (price) factorial design provided smokers opportunities to purchase standard (0.7 per mg tobacco), moderately reduced (0.3 mg), and very low-nicotine (0.03 mg). Spectrum research cigarettes according to an escalating price structure (low-nicotine costing the least, high-nicotine costing the most) given a fixed, laboratoryprovided "income." Participants were 20 overnight-abstinent smokers who previously smoked and rated each of the three cigarettes. Results: Overall, smokers rated LNCs as less satisfying compared with standard nicotine cigarettes (SNC), t(18) = -5.40, p < .001. In the free-choice session, subjects were more likely to choose LNC that cost less compared with SNC that cost more, even after an 8-hour abstinence period, F(2, 19) = 4.32, p = .03. Those selecting LNC or moderate nicotine cigarettes after abstinence smoked more cigarettes per day, t(17) = 2.40, p = .03 and had higher dependence scores on the HONC, t(18) = 2.21, p = .04 that those selecting SNC. Conclusion: The results indicate that smokers' response to price points when purchasing cigarettes may extend to LNC if these were commercially available. Differential cigarette prices based on nicotine content may result in voluntary selection of less addicting products. Implications: The Food and Drug Administration has proposed a rule that would reduce nicotine content in commercially available cigarettes. However, it is not known how smokers may respond in an environment where products of differing nicotine content and of differing prices are available. This study demonstrates that price may be an important factor that could lead smokers to select reduced nicotine products voluntarily, even if those products are rated as inferior or less satisfying.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)955-961
Number of pages7
JournalNicotine and Tobacco Research
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jun 21 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Medicine


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