We used scanner data on cigarette prices and sales collected from supermarkets across the United States from 1994 to 2004 to test the hypothesis that cigarette prices are positively correlated with sales of cigarettes with higher tar and nicotine content. During this period the average inflation-adjusted price for menthol cigarettes increased 55.8%. Price elasticities from multivariate regression models suggest that this price increase led to an increase of 1.73% in sales-weighted average tar yields and a 1.28% increase in sales-weighted average nicotine yields for menthol cigarettes. The 50.5% price increase of nonmenthol varieties over the same period yielded an estimated increase of 1% in tar per cigarette but no statistically significant increase in nicotine yields. An ordered probit model of the impact of cigarette prices on cigarette strength (ultra-light, light, full flavor, unfiltered) offers an explanation: As cigarette prices increase, the probability that stronger cigarette types will be sold increases. This effect is larger for menthol than for nonmenthol cigarettes. Our results are consistent with earlier population-based cross-sectional and longitudinal studies showing that higher cigarette prices and taxes are associated with increasing consumption of higher-yield cigarettes by smokers.
Do increases in cigarette prices lead to increases in sales of cigarettes with high tar and nicotine yields?