Monday, 20 April 2015

Is there a relationship between cigarette brand switching and quitting?

Dr Genevieve Cowie has co-authored a paper with researchers from The Cancer Council Victoria, exploring the relationship between tobacco brand switching behaviour and choosing to quit smoking.

Australia’s tobacco market is controlled by three main companies. Regardless of this, there are numerous brands selling cigarettes, differing from the American market, so brands have a reduced concentration of market share. However, Australia’s regulations regarding tobacco brand advertising have had clear results. By 2000, tobacco advertising had been limited to only in point of sale and on cigarette packs. By 2006, tobacco companies were no longer to advertise in sponsorships. These restrictions have been further tightened and in 2012, tobacco was to be hidden at the point of sale which reduced the chance of impulse purchases.

Warnings on cigarette packets have also become more explicit with graphic photos depicting the consequences of smoking, encouraging smokers to think of the health ramifications and spurring them to quit. Furthermore, the increase on tobacco taxes (25% in 2010) has led to the reduction of smoking in individuals over the age of 14. The authors note that the majority of research regarding the relationship between brand switching and quitting has been limited to the increase of costs or switching between the many variants (Menthol or Mild). There is a paucity of research examining the shift from one brand of cigarettes to another. This study explores the association between brand shifting and quitting activity in Australian smokers from 2002 to 2012.

The authors used secondary data from the International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Project, 4 Country (ITC-4), utilising only the Australian portion of data. Using the same data set, they had previously identified that after the tax increase of 25% there was a decrease in tobacco brand stability within high-income earning smokers. However over the entire duration of the study, those who were high income earners were also the most loyal to their brand of cigarettes and were not likely to identify cost of cigarettes as a motivator for a choice of tobacco brand.

The authors surveyed current smokers from the ITC-4 study across the nine waves. The measures used were; interest in quitting, recent quitting attempts, brand switching in both brand family and product type (factory made cigarettes or hand-made roll-your-own cigarettes) and a continuous month of abstinence from tobacco. Data collection was obtained through phone interviews and a portion was collected online. The results indicated that switching in one interval was not associated with a concurrent interest in quitting smoking. An interest in quitting predicted switching in the next interval but this effect disappeared after later quit attempts were controlled for. Furthermore, at least one month of abstinence from smoking predicted a lesser chance of swapping brands in the next interval.

The researchers conclude that the inconsistency indicated that a swapping in brand choices of tobacco is not definitely associated with a decision to quit smoking. The researchers state that switching between brands does not seem to influence later quitting patterns but may be a pointer to those smokers having greater difficulty quitting smoking. Dr Cowie and authors state that whilst this research adds to the limited data regarding the relationship between quitting and brand switching, there is no clear significant relationship between the two.

Read the paper here.

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