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  • Writer's pictureJulie de Vaan

Raising the price of cigarettes: effective to prevent, not to cure

Updated: Jul 21

Research has shown that a substantial increase in the excise tax on tobacco will not cause people to quit smoking (NOS, 2021). A setback for the people who hoped to ban cigarettes from our lives with this measure. But does it still make sense to increase the price of cigarettes? Yes. It works especially well to prevent people from starting to smoke. We will explain:

So an increase in price does not seem to be effective in helping people to quit smoking. This is because a large group of smokers are not guided by price when buying and smoking cigarettes. There are a lot of other things that determine their choice to smoke. For example, think of:

  • The preference for an immediate reward over a long-term rational decision: a cigarette now is more important than having more money later

  • Habits: after grocery shopping I always buy a pack of cigarettes, after dinner I always smoke one

  • Identity: I am and will always be a smoker, that's just who I am

  • Social status: the people I belong to or want to belong to are all outside smoking, so I do it too

  • Self-efficacy: I want to stop, but I just can't

Unfortunately, a price increase will not ensure that all these buttons no longer have any influence. People will therefore not massively stop smoking due to a price increase.

But an increase in price does have the potential to prevent people from starting to smoke. This is because people then make a cost-benefit consideration before creating a preference, habit, identity, social status or addiction. And because of a higher price, the costs seem to be higher than the benefits more often. So there is a good chance that these people do not start smoking. So, increasing the price of cigarettes does have an effect in this situation.

The fact that this situation often concerns young people makes a price increase even more important. Young people are very sensitive to the preference for a direct reward, identity, social status and addiction. But price is also very important to them, and therefore a good way to counteract the influence of these other factors.


NOS (2021). 'Helft rokers stopt pas als pakje sigaretten 60 euro kost'.

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