Marijuana and Tobacco Cigarettes: Estimating Their Behavioral Economic Relationship Using Purchasing Tasks

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Although marijuana and tobacco are commonly coused, the nature of their relationship has not been fully elucidated. Behavioral economics has characterized the relationship between concurrently available commodities but has not been applied to marijuana and tobacco couse. U.S. adults ≥18 years who coused marijuana and tobacco cigarettes were recruited via Mechanical Turk, a crowdsourcing service by Amazon. Participants (N = 82) completed online purchasing tasks assessing hypothetical marijuana or tobacco cigarette puff consumption across a range of per-puff prices; 2 single-commodity tasks assessed these when only 1 commodity was available, and 2 cross-commodity tasks assessed these in the presence of a concurrently available fixed-price commodity. Purchasing tasks generated measures of demand elasticity, that is, sensitivity of consumption to prices. In single-commodity tasks, consumption of tobacco cigarette puffs (elasticity of demand: α = 0.0075; 95% confidence interval [0.0066, 0.0085], R2 = 0.72) and of marijuana puffs (α = .0044; 95% confidence interval [0.0038, 0.0049], R2 = 0.71) declined significantly with increases in price per puff. In cross-commodity tasks when both tobacco cigarette puffs and marijuana puffs were available, demand for 1 commodity was independent of price increases in the other commodity (ps > .05). Results revealed that, in this small sample, marijuana and tobacco cigarettes did not substitute for each other and did not complement each other; instead, they were independent of each other. These preliminary results can inform future studies assessing the economic relationship between tobacco and marijuana in the quickly changing policy climate in the United States.

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