P01 Project 4

The Experimental Tobacco Marketplace (ETM)

PI: Dr. Warren Bickel

Achieving the goal of tobacco control requires new policies to deal with the existing smoking problem and to manage new products. Being able to estimate the effects of such policies prior to implementation can help strengthen the case for or against implementation. Existing regulatory science methods can examine specific product features (e.g., packaging and demand elasticity). However, no current method can adequately estimate, prior to implementation, the effects of a new regulation or the introduction of a new tobacco product on the patterns of consumption and substitution by current smokers across the various tobacco/nicotine products available in the ever more complex tobacco marketplace.

This gap in both method and knowledge constitutes a significant challenge to tobacco control. The goal of this project is to utilise a novel application of methods shown to have predictive validity in tobacco and obesity/nutritional research that will permit estimates of the effects of new policies and products on consumption and substitution in the tobacco marketplace. The objective here, which is the next step in pursuit of that goal, is to leverage the extensive experience in behavioural economics of tobacco consumption to examine several policies with the novel methodology in adult smokers. This methodology, the Experimental Tobacco Marketplace (ETM), involves controlled offers of a range of products and recording of choices. By placing the mix of products, prices, and specific policies under experimental control it provides estimates of effects of novel policies obtained under conditions that simulate “real world” circumstances. The rationale for this specific proposal is to ascertain the possible consequences of four different electronic cigarette (referred to here as vaporised nicotine products or VNPs) policies to demonstrate the robustness of the ETM both in a laboratory setting and selectively in an international context. These experiments will contribute data to the computational project and the centre, as a whole. The results of this project may prospectively evaluate a broad range of novel tobacco control policies.

Aim 1: Effects of nicotine dose of VNP on substitutability with conventional cigarettes.

One potential policy objective is the nicotine dose permitted in VNPs, which may influence substitutability. In this within subjects study, the nicotine dose of the VNP will be systematically varied and adult smokers will purchase either VNP or conventional cigarettes. Thus, this study will determine if nicotine dose increases preference for VNP while decreasing preference for conventional cigarettes. The VNP nicotine dose with the greatest substitution will be used in the remaining aims.

Aim 2: Effects of differential taxes and subsidies on purchasing of tobacco/nicotine products.

Two potential policies include (1) taxing conventional cigarettes or (2) subsidising modified-risk products, both of which alters the price to the consumer. Either policy may shift consumption to less harmful products. To test this, adult smokers will be exposed to five conditions (current market prices, 25% and 50% taxes on conventional cigarettes, and 25% and 50% subsidies on VNPs) to ascertain their effects on substitution. This study will be conducted both in the researchers’ laboratory and in an international context.

Aim 3: Effects of VNP use in smoke-free environments on product choice.

Whether VNP can be used in smoke-free environments is currently being debated. Evaluating such a policy would indicate whether permitting VNP use in smoke-free environments alters the use of conventional cigarettes. In this study, adult smokers will engage in simulated work for 4-hr shifts with two 15-min breaks. Any tobacco/nicotine product may be used during the breaks. During one of the counter-balanced conditions, any non-combustible tobacco/nicotine product, including VNPs, may be used during the work period, while in the other, any non-combustible tobacco product excluding VNPs may be used during the work period. Comparison of product choice and consumption of conventional cigarettes during the work and break periods will assess whether the VNP use while working results in less conventional cigarette use.

Aim 4: effects of VNP flavours on substitutability with conventional cigarettes.

VNPs are available with a wide variety of flavours. In Canada, only different flavours of non-nicotine fluid are available for VNPs. These flavours may enhance the reinforcing effects of VNPs and may render them more effective substitutes for conventional cigarettes. In this aim, the research team will measure the effect of flavours, nicotine dose, and their interaction. This study will examine the effects of preferred VNP flavour or standard tobacco flavour on substitution for conventional cigarettes. Thus, adult smokers, after sampling and specifying their preference for VNP flavours, will experience four conditions in a counterbalanced order (a. preferred flavour with nicotine; b. preferred flavour with no nicotine; c. tobacco flavour with nicotine; d. tobacco flavour with no nicotine). To assess substitution, participants will then purchase tobacco/nicotine products in the ETM under those four conditions when the prices of conventional cigarettes are varied.