The High Cost of Quitting

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As health-conscious Americans try to kick caffeine, nicotine, alcohol and fatty foods, you'd think companies like Colt 45 and Philip Morris would lose money. But quitting our habits may actually up their profit.

It's true that if people completely abandoned their vices, then sales of these products would suffer. But consumer behavior isn't so simple, says Klaus Wertenbroch, Ph.D., a professor at the Yale School of Management. He points out that our difficulty in overcoming addiction leads to two opposite buying styles: We either buy large, cheap quantities of a product when we feel like indulging our weakness, or we buy the smallest--but more expensive--package when we're feeling virtuous and are trying to wean ourselves off of it.

This schizoid purchasing pattern, says Wertenbroch, plays right into the pockets of marketers looking to increase sales. By targeting both the hopeful habit-breaker and the inevitable cheater, they can be sure to make a buck.

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