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Do Cigarette Taxes Make Smokers Happier

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  • Gruber Jonathan H

    ()
    (MIT)

  • Mullainathan Sendhil

    ()
    (Harvard University)

Abstract

Some policy makers justify cigarette taxes by arguing that they actually make smokers better off. This argument has been hard to evaluate because behavioral data, such as that showing reduced cigarette consumption following a tax hike, cannot resolve the issue of whether smokers are made better off by the reduction or not. In this paper, we directly assess the effect of cigarette taxes on well-being, using subjective well-being data. We model the differential impact of excise taxes on those with a propensity to smoke, relative to others, in order to control for omitted correlations between happiness and excise taxation. Using US data on happiness and state-level changes in excise taxes, we find consistent evidence that excise taxes make those who have a propensity to smoke happier. To assess robustness, we repeat the exercise using Canadian data, which has independent information on well-being and also much larger tax changes, and find the exact same pattern. Moreover, these impacts are present for cigarette excise taxes, but not for other excise taxes. These results suggest that the welfare effects of cigarette taxation are far more complex than simple rational economic models might predict.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by De Gruyter in its journal The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy.

Volume (Year): 5 (2005)
Issue (Month): 1 (July)
Pages: 1-45

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Handle: RePEc:bpj:bejeap:v:advances.5:y:2005:i:1:n:4

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  1. 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.
  2. Becker, Gary S & Murphy, Kevin M, 1988. "A Theory of Rational Addiction," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(4), pages 675-700, August.
  3. O'Donoghue, Ted & Rabin, Matthew, 1997. "Doing It Now or Later," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt7t44m5b0, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
  4. David G. Blanchflower & Andrew J. Oswald, 1997. "The Rising Well-Being of the Young," NBER Working Papers 6102, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Clark, Andrew E & Oswald, Andrew J, 1994. "Unhappiness and Unemployment," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 104(424), pages 648-59, May.
  6. Frank J. Chaloupka & Kenneth E. Warner, 1999. "The Economics of Smoking," NBER Working Papers 7047, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Robert J. MacCulloch & Rafael Di Tella & Andrew J. Oswald, 2001. "Preferences over Inflation and Unemployment: Evidence from Surveys of Happiness," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(1), pages 335-341, March.
  8. Jonathan Gruber & Botond Koszegi, 2000. "Is Addiction "Rational"? Theory and Evidence," NBER Working Papers 7507, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Easterlin, Richard A., 1995. "Will raising the incomes of all increase the happiness of all?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 35-47, June.
  10. Jonathan Gruber & Botond Koszegi, 2002. "A Theory of Government Regulation of Addictive Bads: Optimal Tax Levels and Tax Incidence for Cigarette Excise Taxation," NBER Working Papers 8777, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. 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.
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