Financial Crisis Spurs Smoking Increase and Switch to Cheaper Brands

November 18, 2008

This article is included in these additional categories:

CPG & FMCG | Financial Services | Pharma & Healthcare | Retail & E-Commerce | Women

More than three-quarters (77%) of current smokers in the US report that they have increased stress levels because of the economic crisis, and two-thirds of those smokers say this stress has had an effect on their smoking behavior, according to a survey from the American Legacy Foundation, conducted by Harris Interactive.

The data indicates that stress over the economy is causing some smokers to delay attempts to quit, increase the number of cigarettes they are smoking, and/or switch to a less-expensive brand instead of quitting.


In addition, the survey found that seven percent of stressed-out smokers who had quit are now smoking again, while nine percent of former smokers said the financial situation had tempted them to start smoking again.

Additional survey findings:

  • One in four smokers stressed about the economy say their stress has caused them to smoke more cigarettes per day. This number is higher among women (31%) than men (17%).
  • Those smokers with lower household incomes are especially affected by the financial crisis. A greater percentage of stressed smokers with an annual household income of less than $35K (38%) reported smoking more cigarettes per day because of the current state of the economy, compared with those with household incomes of $35-$74.9K (24%) and those with incomes of more than $75K (13%).
  • 20% of middle-income ($35-$74.9K) stressed smokers have delayed attempts to quit because of stress over the economy. This is compared with those who have household incomes of under $35K (14%) and higher-income (more than $75K) smokers (6%).
  • Unemployed smokers worried about the economy report smoking more cigarettes per day (29%) in greater numbers than full-time or self-employed stressed smokers (17%).
  • 13% of stressed smokers say their concern about the economy has caused them to postpone their plans to quit.

The survey also found that economic stress is causing smokers – especially those with lower incomes – to re-evaluate their buying habits when it comes to tobacco products:

  • One-fifth of smokers stressed about the economy have switched to a less expensive brand to save money.
  • More stressed smokers with household incomes of less than $35K (28%) reported brand-switching compared with those who made more than $50K (12%). One-quarter of those with incomes of $35-$49.9K reported switching brands to save money.

“It is no secret that stress is a major factor in smoking behavior,” said Cheryl G. Healton, Dr. P.H., president and CEO of the American Legacy Foundation. “The turbulent global stock markets have caused virtually every American a certain level of stress. Those who also struggle with an addiction to tobacco products are at an increased disadvantage as they contemplate quitting, or feel the urge to smoke more cigarettes. It’s challenging to make a comprehensive attempt to quit when issues like job security, uncertainty about the future, and the worries of your family and friends keep you from having all the resources you need to tackle this very difficult addiction.”

About the survey: The sample comprised 2,375 US Adults aged 18+, of whom 1,347 had ever smoked.


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