Despite increases in cigarette prices, smoking prevalence remains unchanged among low-income populations.

Researchers used data from the 1984-2004 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System surveys linked to information on cigarette prices to examine the adjusted prevalence of smoking by income group and time period. Analyses included data 14 years before and 6 years after the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) of 1998. Although smoking declined over the 20-year period, data showed that gaps in smoking participation among income groups have widened. The proportion of low-income smokers pre-MSA was 27.7 percent, increasing to 28.6 percent post-MSA; for higher-income persons smoking declined from 23.9 percent to 21.6 percent.

In addition, analysis of smoking prevalence pre- and post-MSA showed that although there was a significant effect of cigarette price on smoking before MSA, there was a dramatic drop in price sensitivity among both lower- and higher-income persons. "These findings, in turn, suggest that cigarette excise taxation may have become an ineffectual public health tobacco-control policy in the post-MSA era," the study's authors said.

[From: "Cigarette Prices, Smoking and the Poor: the Implications of Recent Trends." Contact: Peter Franks, MD, Center for Health Services Research in Primary Care, School of Medicine, UC Davis, Sacramento, Calif., pfranksucdavis.edu .]

The American Journal of Public Health is the monthly journal of the American Public Health Association (APHA), the oldest organization of public health professionals in the world. APHA is a leading publisher of books and periodicals promoting sound scientific standards, action programs and public policy to enhance health.

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