Cigarette Taxes and Alcohol Consumption

Smokers cut back on drinking when cigarette taxes went up

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Cigarette taxes have been thought to play a part in reducing smoking. But as taxes on cigarettes have gone up, many male smokers in the US have also chosen to cut back on their alcohol intake as well. 

A recent study looked at drinking habits among smokers who lived in states where cigarette taxes increased compared to smokers who lived in states with no tax increase.

Results of this study showed that men who smoked drank less after cigarette taxes increased, but the same did not apply to women who smoked.

"Save money by quitting smoking."

Kelly C. Young-Wolff, PhD, a postdoctoral research fellow at Stanford University School of Medicine, led this investigation into whether cigarette taxation has had an effect on alcohol consumption among smokers.

The researchers looked over data from the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions, which included 21,473 drinkers in the US.

Surveys were done in two waves. The first wave was from 2001 to 2002, and the second wave was from 2004 to 2005. Roughly half of the participants lived in a state that experienced a cigarette tax increase from Wave I to Wave II. Tax increases ranged from 7 to 160 cents per pack.

The researchers noticed that when cigarette taxes increased, the overall amount of drinking and frequency of binge drinking decreased among male smokers, but not female smokers. Taxes on cigarettes had no effect on the drinking habits of nonsmokers.

Higher cigarette taxes led people in the following categories to consume roughly one-third less of a drink per drinking session compared to people living in states with no tax hike:

  • People 50 and older
  • Young adults 18 to 29 years of age
  • People in the lowest income bracket (earned under $20,000 per year) 
  • Higher taxes led binge drinkers (men who consumed five or more alcoholic drinks and women who consumed four or more drinks in one sitting) to consume roughly one half a drink less per drinking session.

The study authors concluded that increases in cigarette taxes were associated with modest to moderate reductions in alcohol consumption among certain groups.

This study was published in August in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

The National Institutes of Health supported funding for this project. No conflicts of interest were declared.

Review Date: 
August 15, 2013
Last Updated:
August 22, 2013