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Unintended consequences of cigarette price changes for alcohol drinking behaviors across age groups: evidence from pooled cross sections

Deborah L McLellan1*, Dominic Hodgkin1, Pebbles Fagan2, Sharon Reif1 and Constance M Horgan1

Author Affiliations

1 Institute for Behavioral Health, Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University, 415 South Street, MS035, Waltham, MA, 02454-9110, USA

2 Cancer Prevention and Control, University of Hawaii Cancer Center, 677 Ala Moana Blvd. Gold Bond Building, Suite 200, Honolulu, HI, 96813, USA

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Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy 2012, 7:28  doi:10.1186/1747-597X-7-28

Published: 11 July 2012



Raising prices through taxation on tobacco and alcohol products is a common strategy to raise revenues and reduce consumption. However, taxation policies are product specific, focusing either on alcohol or tobacco products. Several studies document interactions between the price of cigarettes and general alcohol use and it is important to know whether increased cigarette prices are associated with varying alcohol drinking patterns among different population groups. To inform policymaking, this study investigates the association of state cigarette prices with smoking, and current, binge, and heavy drinking by age group.


The 2001-2006 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System surveys (nā€‰=ā€‰1,323,758) were pooled and analyzed using multiple regression equations to estimate changes in smoking and drinking pattern response to an increase in cigarette price, among adults aged 18 and older. For each outcome, a multiple linear probability model was estimated which incorporated terms interacting state cigarette price with age group. State and year fixed effects were included to control for potential unobserved state-level characteristics that might influence smoking and drinking.


Increases in state cigarette prices were associated with increases in current drinking among persons aged 65 and older, and binge and heavy drinking among persons aged 21-29. Reductions in smoking were found among persons aged 30-64, drinking among those aged 18-20, and binge drinking among those aged 65 and older.


Increases in state cigarette prices may increase or decrease smoking and harmful drinking behaviors differentially by age. Adults aged 21-29 and 65 and older are more prone to increased drinking as a result of increased cigarette prices. Researchers, practitioners, advocates, and policymakers should work together to understand and prepare for these unintended consequences of tobacco taxation policy.

Cigarette price; Tobacco policy; Smoking; Drinking behaviors; Age; Young adults; Older adults