Tobacco coupons increase ex-smokers’ chances of relapse.

Tobacco coupons increase ex-smokers' chances of relapse.

The Impact of Tobacco Coupons on Smoking Relapse Rates


By Cara Murez HealthDay Reporter

Coupons for tobacco products appear to have a big impact on relapse rates for smokers who have recently kicked the habit, researchers report. A study of more than 5,000 former smokers who participated in a national survey found double the relapse rate for those who received cigarette coupons by direct mail or email.

“We hypothesized that people who received coupons would be more likely to relapse, but we were surprised by the magnitude of the effect,” said lead author Jidong Huang, a professor in the Department of Health Policy and Behavioral Sciences at Georgia State University School of Public Health. “It really shows that smokers who have quit the past year are the most vulnerable to relapse, and it implies that policies that prohibit the distribution of tobacco coupons could help more people succeed in quitting,” he said in a university news release.

Smoking continues to be the leading cause of preventable death for Americans. It claims more than 480,000 lives each year in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Vulnerability of Recent Quitters

Huang’s study highlights the vulnerability of smokers who have recently quit. These individuals are at a higher risk of relapse when exposed to marketing materials such as tobacco coupons. The study’s findings suggest that policies prohibiting the distribution of these coupons could play a crucial role in helping more people successfully quit smoking.

The Need for Strong Tobacco Prevention and Control Policies

While tobacco prevention and control policies have made significant progress in reducing cigarette smoking, more regulation is still needed. Measures such as raising tobacco taxes, adopting comprehensive smoke-free policies, conducting hard-hitting anti-tobacco media campaigns, and implementing restrictions on tobacco advertising have contributed to all-time lows in smoking rates.

However, it is essential to address the issue of marketing materials, including direct mail and email promotions, which remain significant avenues for tobacco companies to reach current and potential smokers. Physicians and smoking cessation counselors should inform recent quitters about the impact that these marketing materials can have on their efforts to quit.

The Role of Healthcare Professionals

Educating individuals about the influence of marketing materials is crucial in supporting their smoking cessation journey. In addition to interventions and treatments that help manage nicotine cravings, policies that prohibit the distribution of tobacco coupons can further enhance the success rate of quitting smoking.


The study’s findings shed light on the detrimental impact of tobacco coupons on smoking relapse rates among recent quitters. Smoking cessation efforts should not only focus on individual willpower but also address the external factors that can undermine their progress. By implementing policies that restrict the distribution of tobacco coupons, healthcare professionals and policymakers can contribute to reducing smoking rates and preventing the associated health risks.

Study findings were published in the September issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

More information

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SOURCE: Georgia State University School of Public Health, news release, Aug. 23, 2023

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