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Cigarette packaging, warnings, prices, and contraband: A discrete choice experiment among smokers in Ontario, Canada

Guindon, G. E., Mentzakis, E. ORCID: 0000-0003-1761-209X & Buckley, N. J. (2024). Cigarette packaging, warnings, prices, and contraband: A discrete choice experiment among smokers in Ontario, Canada. Economics & Human Biology, 52, article number 101340. doi: 10.1016/j.ehb.2023.101340


In Canada, despite substantial decline, tobacco use remains the leading risk factor responsible for mortality and morbidity. There is overwhelming evidence that higher tobacco taxes reduce tobacco use, even if high taxes create an incentive to avoid or evade tobacco taxes. Recently, in addition to taxes, plain and standardized packaging and printing a warning on each cigarette have been lauded to reduce tobacco use. In November 2019, Canada became the country with the most comprehensive cigarette packaging regulations; and in June 2022, Canada proposed to print health warnings on individual cigarettes, the first jurisdiction to ever do so. The regulations came into force on August 1, 2023, and are being implemented through a stepwise approach. Our objective was to examine the effects of plain and standardized packaging, warning on cigarettes, price, and the availability of illicit cigarettes on intention to purchase and risk perceptions. We conducted a discrete choice experiment, and examined heterogeneity in preferences using latent class models among smokers in Ontario, Canada. We found that using latent class analyses was essential in quantifying preferences for attributes of cigarettes and cigarette packs. First, nearly half of smokers stated a preference for cheaper illicit cigarettes in a branded pack without any health warnings, regardless of the licit cigarette alternatives. For about 20% of respondents, plain packaging and especially warning on cigarette sticks decreased the probability of stating a purchasing preference for these alternatives. Third, about a third of respondents chose competing alternatives with mostly one attribute in mind, price. Lastly, none of the products and attributes seem to have significantly influenced risk perception. Our findings attest to the importance of prices and taxes, to the potential of warnings on cigarette sticks to control tobacco use, and indicate that efforts to restrict the availability of illicit cigarettes may yield substantial benefits.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article is available under the Creative Commons CC-BY-NC license and permits non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Publisher Keywords: Tobacco, Cigarette smoking, Product packaging, Product labeling, Price, Illicit, Discrete-choice experiment, Stated preferences, Ontario, Canada
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs
School of Policy & Global Affairs > Economics
SWORD Depositor:
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