The substitutability of cigarettes and food: A behavioral economic comparison in normal weight and overweight or obese smokers.
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Obesity and cigarette smoking contribute to a multitude of preventable deaths in the United States and eating and smoking behavior may influence each other. The field of behavioral economics integrates principles from psychology and economics and permits systematic examination of how commodities interrelate with one another. Using this framework, the current study evaluated the effects of rising food and cigarette prices on consumption to investigate their substitutability and their relationship to BMI and associated variables. Behavioral economics categorizes commodities as substitutable when the consumption of one increases as a function of a price increase in the other. Smokers (N = 86) completed a 2-part hypothetical task in which money was allocated to purchase cigarettes and fast-food-style reinforcers (e.g., hamburgers, ice cream) at various prices. Results indicated that food and cigarettes were not substitutes for one another (cross-price elasticity coefficients < .20). Food purchases were independent of cigarette price, whereas cigarette purchases decreased as food price rose. Cross-price elasticity coefficients were significantly associated with confidence in one's ability to control weight without smoking (rs = -.23 and .29), but not BMI (rs = .04 and .04) or postcessation weight concerns (rs = -.05 and .12). Perceived ability to manage weight without cigarettes may influence who substitutes food for cigarettes when quitting. In addition, given observed decreases in purchases of both commodities as food prices increased, these findings imply that greater taxation of fast-food-style reinforcers could potentially reduce consumption of these foods and also cigarettes among smokers. (PsycINFO Database Record
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