SUNDAY, June 6, 2010 (HealthDay News) -- Boosting cigarette taxes can cause smoking rates to plummet among people struggling with alcohol, drug and/or mental disorders, new research suggests.
The study authors found that raising the price of cigarettes by just 10 percent translates into more than an 18 percent drop in smoking among such individuals.
"Whatever we can do to reduce smoking is critical to the health of the U.S.," Dr. Michael Ong, a researcher at the Jonsson Cancer Center at the University of California Los Angeles, said in a news release. "Cigarette taxes are used as a key policy instrument to get people to quit smoking, so understanding whether people will really quit is important. Individuals with alcohol, drug or mental disorders comprise 40 percent of remaining smokers, and there is little literature on how to help these people quit smoking."
Ong and his colleagues reported their findings online May 13 in advance of publication in an upcoming print issue of the American Journal of Public Health.
The authors noted that smoking is the leading cause of death in the United States.
The current finding stems from a 2000-2001 survey of more than 7,500 men and women, about 23 percent of whom had an alcohol, drug or mental health disorder in the year prior to being polled.
More than four in 10 in that subgroup were smokers, which the authors pointed out is a much higher percentage of smokers than is found among the general public.
Those who were alcohol-dependent did not reduce their cigarette consumption in response to price increases, Ong and his team observed. However, smokers who had binge-drinking problems, substance-abuse problems or mental health disorders were found to be more likely to kick the habit altogether if prices rose.
Nevertheless, the authors cautioned that more research is needed in order to confirm the price-habit connection among these particular groups of smokers.
For more on quitting smoking, visit the American Heart Association.