The benefits of preventing smoking onset are well known. Existing reviews clearly demonstrate that increasing the prices of tobacco products reduces smoking prevalence and cigarette consumption. However, only a small number of studies included in existing reviews have examined smoking onset (the transition between never smoking and smoking). Moreover, existing reviews provide limited quality assessment of the data and methods utilised. This paper systematically searches for and critically reviews studies that examine the impact of tobacco prices or taxes on smoking onset. Most studies reviewed have important methodological limitations, including recall bias; a general failure to apply diagnostic tests, to discuss the choice of estimators and distributional assumptions and to conduct sensitivity analysis; and a reliance on empirical approaches that are methodologically weak. On the whole, existing studies do not provide strong evidence that tobacco prices or taxes affect smoking onset.
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