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Saturday 21 April 2018

How tobacco firms keep smokers hooked

Overall, smoking rates are declining. Stock photo: PA News
Overall, smoking rates are declining. Stock photo: PA News

Claire Hayhurst

Big tobacco firms have developed sophisticated pricing strategies to soak up tax increases and undermine efforts to reduce smoking, researchers say.

Academics at the University of Bath and King's College London say the tactics ensure products remain cheap for the poorest in society.

Overall, smoking rates are declining, but data from September shows 23pc of those in manual occupations smoke, compared with 12pc in professional or clerical roles. The study, which analysed sales data from 2009 to 2015, found new, cheaper brands, reduced pack sizes and price-marking had been introduced. More smokers are switching to cheaper products, so while total sales fell, sales of the cheapest and roll-your-own cigarettes increased.

Prices are also being altered to minimise the shock of tax increases, the authors write in the journal 'Tobacco Control'. They found that from 2012 - adjusting for inflation - average real prices for the cheapest factory-made and roll-your-own products remained steady.

Between January 2013 and December 2015, the price of "sub-value" cigarettes fell.

Dr Rosemary Hiscock, of the Tobacco Control Research Group, at the University of Bath, said: "Through sophisticated pricing strategies and clever tactics, such as price-marked packs and small pack sizes, the industry is thwarting a public health measure."

Irish Independent

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