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Playing with Fire: Cigarettes, Taxes, and Competition from the Internet

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  • Austan Goolsbee
  • Michael F. Lovenheim
  • Joel Slemrod

Abstract

This paper documents the rise of the Internet as a source of state tax-free cigarettes and its impact on taxed sales elasticities. Using data on cigarette tax rates, taxable cigarette sales and individual smoking rates by state from 1980 to 2005 merged with data on Internet penetration, this paper documents that there has been a substantial increase in the sensitivity of taxable cigarette sales to state tax rates that is correlated with the rise of Internet usage within states. The estimates imply that the increased sensitivity from cigarette smuggling over the Internet has lessened the revenue generating potential of cigarette tax increases significantly, although states are still far from the revenue-maximizing tax rates. (JEL D12, H25, H31, H71, L66)

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Journal: Economic Policy.

Volume (Year): 2 (2010)
Issue (Month): 1 (February)
Pages: 131-54

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aejpol:v:2:y:2010:i:1:p:131-54

Note: DOI: 10.1257/pol.2.1.131
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References

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  1. Joel Slemrod & Wojciech Kopczuk, 2000. "The Optimal Elasticity of Taxable Income," NBER Working Papers 7922, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Gary S. Becker & Michael Grossman & Kevin M. Murphy, 1990. "An Empirical Analysis of Cigarette Addiction," NBER Working Papers 3322, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. William N. Evans & Jeanne S. Ringel & Diana Stech, 1999. "Tobacco Taxes and Public Policy to Discourage Smoking," NBER Chapters, in: Tax Policy and the Economy, volume 13, pages 1-56 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Marie C. Thursby & Jerry G. Thursby, 1994. "Interstate Cigarette Bootlegging: Extent, Revenue Losses, and Effects of Government Intervention," NBER Working Papers 4763, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Jonathan Gruber, 2000. "Youth Smoking in the U.S.: Prices and Policies," NBER Working Papers 7506, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Matthew C. Farrelly & Terry F. Pechacek & Frank J. Chaloupka, 2001. "The Impact of Tobacco Control Program Expenditures on Aggregate Cigarette Sales: 1981-1998," NBER Working Papers 8691, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Farrelly, Matthew C. & Pechacek, Terry F. & Chaloupka, Frank J., 2003. "The impact of tobacco control program expenditures on aggregate cigarette sales: 1981-2000," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(5), pages 843-859, September.
  8. Keeler, Theodore E. & Hu, Teh-wei & Barnett, Paul G. & Manning, Willard G. & Sung, Hai-Yen, 1996. "Do cigarette producers price-discriminate by state? An empirical analysis of local cigarette pricing and taxation," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(4), pages 499-512, August.
  9. Michael F. Lovenheim, 2007. "How Far to the Border?: The Extent and Impact of Cross-Border Casual Cigarette Smuggling," Discussion Papers 06-040, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, revised Oct 2009.
  10. Hu, Teh-Wei & Sung, Hai-Yen & Keeler, Theodore E, 1995. "The State Antismoking Campaign and the Industry Response: The Effects of Advertising on Cigarette Consumption in California," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(2), pages 85-90, May.
  11. Thursby, Jerry G. & Thursby, Marie C., 2000. "Interstate Cigarette Bootlegging: Extent, Revenue Losses, and Effects of Federal Intervention," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 53(n. 1), pages 59-78, March.
  12. Looney, Adam & Kroft, Kory & Chetty, Raj, 2009. "Salience and Taxation: Theory and Evidence," Scholarly Articles 9748525, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  13. Coats, R. Morris, 1995. "A Note on Estimating Cross-Border Effects of State Cigarette Taxes," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 48(4), pages 573-84, December.
  14. Jonathan Gruber & Anindya Sen & Mark Stabile, 2002. "Estimating Price Elasticities When there is Smuggling: The Sensitivity of Smoking to Price in Canada," NBER Working Papers 8962, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Ayda A. Yurekli & Ping Zhang, 2000. "The impact of clean indoor-air laws and cigarette smuggling on demand for cigarettes: an empirical model," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 9(2), pages 159-170.
  16. Jonathan Gruber & Botond Köszegi, 2001. "Is Addiction "Rational"? Theory And Evidence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 116(4), pages 1261-1303, November.
  17. Jeffrey R. Brown & Austan Goolsbee, 2002. "Does the Internet Make Markets More Competitive? Evidence from the Life Insurance Industry," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(3), pages 481-507, June.
  18. Frank J. Chaloupka & Kenneth E. Warner, 1999. "The Economics of Smoking," NBER Working Papers 7047, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Keeler, Theodore E. & Hu, Teh-wei & Manning, Willard G. & Sung, Hai-Yen, 2001. "State Tobacco Taxation, Education and Smoking: Controlling for the Effects of Omitted Variables," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 54(n. 1), pages 83-102, March.
  20. Stehr, Mark, 2005. "Cigarette tax avoidance and evasion," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 277-297, March.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Chiou, Lesley & Muehlegger, Eric, 2010. "Consumer Response to Cigarette Excise Tax Changes," Working Paper Series rwp10-020, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  2. Chiou, Lesley & Muehlegger, Erich, 2008. "Crossing the Line: The Effect of Cross Border Cigarette Sales on State Excise Tax Revenues," Working Paper Series rwp08-012, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  3. Philip DeCicca & Donald S. Kenkel & Feng Liu, 2010. "Excise Tax Avoidance: The Case of State Cigarette Taxes," NBER Working Papers 15941, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Edward L. Glaeser, 2012. "Urban Public Finance," NBER Working Papers 18244, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Michael F. Lovenheim, 2007. "How Far to the Border?: The Extent and Impact of Cross-Border Casual Cigarette Smuggling," Discussion Papers 06-040, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, revised Oct 2009.
  6. Hansen, Benjamin & Sabia, Joseph J. & Rees, Daniel I., 2011. "Cigarette Taxes and the Social Market," IZA Discussion Papers 5580, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  7. Liran Einav & Dan Knoepfle & Jonathan Levin & Neel Sundaresan, 2014. "Sales Taxes and Internet Commerce," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(1), pages 1-26, January.
  8. Claudio Agostini, 2010. "Tributación a Los Cigarrillos: Análisis y Propuestas," ILADES-Georgetown University Working Papers inv246, Ilades-Georgetown University, Universidad Alberto Hurtado/School of Economics and Bussines.
  9. Avi Goldfarb & Shane Greenstein & Catherine Tucker, 2014. "Introduction to "Economics of Digitization"," NBER Chapters, in: Economics of Digitization National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Andrés Leal & Julio López-Laborda & Fernando Rodrigo, 2010. "Cross-Border Shopping: A Survey," International Advances in Economic Research, Springer, vol. 16(2), pages 135-148, May.
  11. Perry Singleton, 2008. "Public Sentiment and Tobacco Control Policy," Center for Policy Research Working Papers 106, Center for Policy Research, Maxwell School, Syracuse University.

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