Converging combustible and electronic cigarette prices: evidence for Nielsen retail scanner data in the United States from 2011 to 2015
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American Cancer Society, Intramural Research, United States of America
University of Michigan, Health Management and Policy, United States of America
Georgia State University, School of Public Health, United States of America
University of Illinois at Chicago, United States of America
Publication date: 2018-03-01
Tob. Induc. Dis. 2018;16(Suppl 1):A118
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Very little is known about the prices of new non-combustible tobacco products such as electronic cigarettes. Moreover, because of this paucity of data, it is difficult to evaluate the cost for individuals to use e-cigarettes and similar products relative to combustible tobacco products. As governments consider economic policies such as taxation to address tobacco use, an understanding of the changing landscape of product prices will be crucial.

This study utilizes Nielsen retail scanner data from 53 designated market areas in the United States from the period of 2011 through 2015 to examine the trends in tobacco product prices over time and in relation to one another. Average prices for combustible cigarettes, rechargeable e-cigarettes, and e-liquid were calculated for each market and a payback period to recoup the investment in an e-cigarette was calculated in a similar manner to Liber et al., 2016 (Tobacco Control). Constant growth regression was employed to determine rates of change over time.

We find that prices for combustible cigarettes and e-cigarette refills increased during the period of 2011-2015, while prices for disposable and rechargeable e-cigarettes decreased. However, overall, combustible cigarette prices remained lower than disposable e-cigarette prices. The period to recoup the purchase of a rechargeable e-cigarette for a pack-a-day smoker who has switched from combustible cigarettes decreased from 12 to 2 days.

Combustible Cigarettes5.425.475.555.705.821.90%
E-cigarette Starter Kit31.3727.5821.8913.7012.29-23.37%
E-cigarette Refill2.
Payback Period12.
[Mean Product Prices in 53 Nielsen DMAs, 2015 USD]

In the United States, the cost of e-cigarettes quickly approached parity with combustible cigarettes. Future observation of the effects of relative prices on consumption patterns will guide the development of enlightened tax and price policies around the world.