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Addict Behav. 2020 Jan 18;105:106324. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2020.106324. [Epub ahead of print]

Which smokers adopt e-cigarettes and at what price? An experimental estimation of price elasticity of demand and factors correlated with e-cigarette adoption.

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Department of Economics, Kenyon College, Gambier, OH 43022, United States. Electronic address:
Department of Health Behavior, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, Buffalo, NY 14203, United States.
Department of Economics, Susquehanna University, Selinsgrove, PA 17870, United States.


E-cigarette use has surged in recent years. Many of these new users are cigarette smokers. It is unclear whether e-cigarette adoption by smokers will lead to improved public health due to uncertainty about whether e-cigarettes help smokers quit using cigarettes and about whether ongoing dual use reduces exposure to toxins. A third source of uncertainty is whether providing cigarette smokers with sample e-cigarettes increases e-cigarette adoption. To provide insight into this final issue, we follow up with cigarette smokers who left an experimental auction with an e-cigarette, contacting them after two weeks, six weeks, and six months to determine which demographic and smoking-related characteristics predict continued e-cigarette use. We find that smokers who have made a serious quit attempt, have been advised to quit smoking, or have previously tried e-cigarettes are significantly more likely to report continued e-cigarette use. Women and smokers from racial and ethnic minority groups are significantly less likely to use e-cigarettes at follow up, as are those who said they would rather quit than switch to e-cigarettes. We also use experimental auction bids to estimate the price elasticity of demand for e-cigarettes, finding that a 10% increase in price results in a 5.6% reduction in quantity demanded. This suggests e-cigarette demand is less price sensitive than some earlier studies have found. While a tax on e-cigarettes can still be an effective tool for reducing e-cigarette demand, the reduction in demand may be smaller than some earlier studies would suggest.

Conflict of interest statement

Declaration of Competing Interest The authors declare that they have no known competing financial interests or personal relationships that could have appeared to influence the work reported in this paper.

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