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UK smokers most likely to cash in on cheap cigarettes

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by Cancer Research UK | News

5 July 2006

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Smokers in the UK are much more likely to buy cheap cigarettes at a discount outlet than smokers in Australia, Canada and the USA.

According to a new study published online in Tobacco Control almost 20 per cent of UK smokers questioned in a poll of 6682 smokers from four countries last bought cigarettes from low or untaxed venues.

This compared with just one per cent of Australian smokers, 3.7 per cent of Canadian smokers and 6 per cent of American smokers.

The survey also found that older, white, English speaking smokers with a higher income and a higher standard of education were more likely to buy cigarettes at discount outlets than other smokers.

Jean King, Cancer Research UK’s director of tobacco control, said: “High cigarette prices are key to reducing smoking. This study shows that the availability of low or untaxed cigarettes can undermine the public health benefit of increased cigarette excise taxes”.

“In the UK where cigarettes are relatively expensive (about twice the cost of US cigarettes) it seems that high prices are encouraging people to search for places where they can buy low or untaxed cigarettes”.

The survey also showed that smokers who bought their cigarettes at low cost outlets were less likely to attempt to quit smoking than those who bought full price cigarettes.

Professor John Toy, medical director of Cancer Research UK, said: “This study suggests that higher taxes on cigarettes will have less effect on the consumers’ smoking rate when they can readily find outlets that sell cheap cigarettes. The paper also makes it clear that smokers who buy low or untaxed cigarettes are less likely to try to stop smoking”.

For full paper visit the BMJ Journals website.

For media enquiries contact Sally Staples at the Cancer Research UK press office on 020 7061 8300, or the out of hours duty press officer on 07050 264059