OBJECTIVE: To examine characteristics of smokers associated with the use of discount and generic cigarettes. DESIGN: Data for this analysis come from two population-based cross-sectional telephone surveys (1988 survey n = 32952; 1993 survey n = 11783) and a cohort tracking survey (n = 11966) of smokers aged 25-64 years conducted in 20 communities in the United States between 1988 and 1993 as part of the National Cancer Institute's Community Intervention Trial for Smoking Cessation. OUTCOME MEASURES: In each survey, current smokers were asked to report the six-digit UPC code displayed on the side of the pack of their current cigarettes. Respondents who did not have a pack available or who could not locate the UPC code number were asked to report their usual brand of cigarettes smoked. A master list of UPC code numbers was developed so that reported UPC codes could be associated with specific cigarette brand names. Brand name cigarettes were categorised as either premium or discount brands using information from the Maxwell consumer report. Respondents who reported smoking "no name" generic cigarettes were classified as smoking a discount cigarette. RESULTS: The reported use of discount/generic cigarettes increased from 6.2% in 1988 to 23.4% in 1993. The trend toward increased use of lower priced cigarettes was evident in all 20 communities studied. The use of low priced cigarettes was associated with lower household income, higher daily cigarette consumption, and residence in an area with higher average cigarette prices. Respondents using discount/generic cigarettes were less likely to stop smoking or to reduce cigarette consumption between 1988 and 1993 compared with those using premium brand cigarettes. CONCLUSIONS: The availability of discount/generic cigarettes has made smoking more affordable, which most likely has helped the cigarette industry retain customers sensitive to price, who might have otherwise reduced consumption or stop smoking altogether.
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