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Consumer Response to Cigarette Excise Tax Changes

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  • Chiou, Lesley
  • Muehlegger, Erich J.

Abstract

We use a rich dataset of weekly cigarette sales to examine how consumers adapt their behavior before and after excise tax increases - whether by reducing demand, stockpiling, traveling to low-tax jurisdictions, or substituting towards lower-cost brands. Consumer response varies substantially for different types of cigarettes. Stockpiling primarily occurs for discount cigarettes and is most pronounced at stores far from lower-tax jurisdictions. Border-crossing is greatest at stores close to low-tax jurisdictions and occurs primarily for cigarettes sold by the carton. Finally, we find modest short-run substitution towards lower-cost brands following a tax-increase, consistent with consumers smoothing the transition to higher cigarette taxes. These differences in consumer behavior lead to meaningful differences in tax incidence - pass-through is higher for discount cigarettes which have more inelastic demand. Pass-through is lower near low-tax borders, especially for cigarettes sold by the carton for which cross-border evasion is greatest.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Harvard Kennedy School of Government in its series Scholarly Articles with number 4448875.

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Date of creation: 2010
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Publication status: Published in HKS Faculty Research Working Paper Series
Handle: RePEc:hrv:hksfac:4448875

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  1. Chiou Lesley & Muehlegger Erich, 2008. "Crossing the Line: Direct Estimation of Cross-Border Cigarette Sales and the Effect on Tax Revenue," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 8(1), pages 1-41, December.
  2. Marion, Justin & Muehlegger, Erich, 2011. "Fuel tax incidence and supply conditions," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(9-10), pages 1202-1212, October.
  3. Adda, Jérôme & Cornaglia, Francesca, 2005. "Taxes, Cigarette Consumption and Smoking Intensity," IZA Discussion Papers 1849, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  4. 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.
  5. James Alm & Edward Sennoga & Mark Skidmore, 2009. "Perfect Competition, Urbanization, And Tax Incidence In The Retail Gasoline Market," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 47(1), pages 118-134, 01.
  6. 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.
  7. Poterba, James M., 1996. "Retail Price Reactions to Changes in State and Local Sales Taxes," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 49(2), pages 165-76, June.
  8. Donald S. Kenkel, 2005. "Are Alcohol Tax Hikes Fully Passed Through to Prices? Evidence from Alaska," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(2), pages 273-277, May.
  9. Austan Goolsbee & Michael Lovenheim & Joel B. Slemrod, 2009. "Playing With Fire: Cigarettes, Taxes and Competition From the Internet," NBER Working Papers 15612, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Stehr, Mark, 2005. "Cigarette tax avoidance and evasion," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 277-297, March.
  11. Philip DeCicca & Donald Kenkel & Alan Mathios & Yoon-Jeong Shin & Jae-Young Lim, 2008. "Youth smoking, cigarette prices, and anti-smoking sentiment," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 17(6), pages 733-749.
  12. Lovenheim, Michael F., 2008. "How Far to the Border?: The Extent and Impact of Cross-Border Casual Cigarette Smuggling," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 61(1), pages 7-33, March.
  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.
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Cited by:
  1. Berardi, N. & Sevestre, P. & Tepaut, M. & Vigneron, A., 2012. "The impact of a `soda tax' on prices. Evidence from French micro data," Working papers 415, Banque de France.

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