Conceptualising changes to tobacco and alcohol policy as affecting a single interlinked system

New paper from SPECTRUM researchers at the Universities of Sheffield and Bath explores the different mechanisms that link tobacco and alcohol policy changes to their effects on smoking and drinking behaviour.

08 January 2021

SPECTRUM researchers have published a new paper in BMC Public Health. The findings of the study will support the development and interpretation of health economic models of the effects of changes to tobacco and alcohol policies.

Policy modification by individual behaviour and by industry

The study identifies eleven mechanisms through which individuals modify the effects of a policy change, which include mechanisms that might lead to linked effects of policy change on tobacco and alcohol consumption. For example, individuals may reduce consumption of one product in response to a change in policy, but replace it with increased consumption of other products.

Alongside individual behaviour, the paper highlights ten mechanisms by which tobacco and alcohol industries might also modify the effects of policy changes. These are grouped into two categories: reducing policy effectiveness and enacting counter-measures.

Identifying these mechanisms makes it easier to recognise the similarities, differences and inter-relationships between tobacco and alcohol, building a picture of this interlinked system.

Informing the development of health economic models

The findings will help to build an understanding of how different types of policy that target tobacco and/or alcohol consumption affect consumer behaviour.

This knowledge will support the development of health economic models that will inform decisions in tobacco and alcohol policymaking.

Health economic models have a role to play by helping to inform policy decision-makers about the potential societal outcomes of their interventions. However, for such models to most effectively inform policy, the first step in their development should be to develop a conceptual understanding of the aspects of system complexity that are likely to affect the outcomes of policy change.