Tobacco companies frequently distribute coupons for their products. This marketing tactic may be particularly effective among young adults, who tend to be especially price-sensitive. Young adulthood is also a stage during which many individuals initiate established cigarette smoking and are especially vulnerable to the effects of tobacco marketing.
We used five waves of data from the US Population Assessment on Tobacco and Health Study (2013–2019) to assess the longitudinal relationship between cigarette coupon receipt and initiation of established cigarette smoking among young adults (18–24 years) who did not report current smoking and had smoked <100 cigarettes in their lifetime at baseline. Initiation of established cigarette smoking was defined as reporting current cigarette use and having smoked ≥100 cigarettes at follow-up. To test this relationship, we fit four discrete time survival models to an unbalanced person-period data set. The first model included our time-varying coupon receipt variable, which was lagged one wave. Subsequent models added sociodemographic, cigarette smoking exposure and other tobacco use variables.
Adopting the model adjusting for sociodemographic variables, respondents who received a coupon were found to be more likely to initiate established cigarette smoking at follow-up (adjusted HR (aHR): 2.31, 95% CI 1.41 to 3.80). This relationship remained significant when controlling for all covariates in the fully adjusted model (aHR: 1.96, 95% CI 1.18 to 3.26).
These findings show that receiving tobacco coupons may increase the likelihood that young adults will initiate established cigarette smoking, underscoring the need to address the effects of this tobacco marketing tactic.