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Research Article Research Article

How effective are tobacco control policies?

Tobacco taxes have the greatest potential to slash smoking rates, according to Truth Initiative® researchers who reviewed 40 studies that use simulation models to assess the existing and future effectiveness of tobacco control policies.

Researchers analyzed computer simulated models predicting the impact of six major non-clinical tobacco control interventions: taxation, youth prevention, smoke-free policies, mass media campaigns, marketing/advertising restrictions and product regulation. They found that tax hikes of $.71 to $4.63 per pack will yield 8 to 46 percent reductions in cigarette consumption, according to the review published in Nicotine & Tobacco Research.


Tax hikes of $.71 to $4.63 will yield cigarette consumption reductions from 8% to 46%

Following taxes, the researchers found indoor smoking bans and mass media campaigns to be most effective. If indoor smoking bans in workplaces were implemented across the country, 725,000 current smokers would quit, according to one study. Mass media campaigns have varying results because they are each unique, but overall they were found to reduce tobacco use and be cost-effective.

Programs restricting youth access to tobacco could also be successful according to researchers, especially raising the minimum age of purchase to 21, which models predicted would reduce consumption by 14.6 percent among 15- to 17-year-olds.

Finally, full marketing and advertising bans and product regulations could also reduce tobacco consumption, with one study showing a full ban on menthol would avert as many as 633,000 deaths over 40 years.

In the U.S., the federal cigarette tax is $1.01 per pack and the average state cigarette tax is $1.69, resulting in an average pack price of about $6. The Surgeon General has recommended a minimum price pack of $10.

The impacts of policies used in combination may save even more lives. “Policies implemented together may enhance the effects of one another, even if their impacts in isolation are weak,” said Allison Glasser, senior project manager at the Schroeder Institute® for Tobacco Research and Policy Studies.

Future studies should account for the “real world context in which tobacco control interventions are implemented,” including consideration for “the effects of interventions on uptake, cessation and relapse rate of multiple tobacco products,” Glasser said.

Key takeaways


Tax hikes of $.71 to $4.63 will yield cigarette consumption reductions from 8% to 46%


Raising the minimum tobacco age to 21 would reduce consumption by 14.6% among 15- to 17-year-olds


If smoke-free indoor air policies were implemented in workplaces across the country, 725,000 current smokers are projected to quit