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Vertical Equity Consequences of Very High Cigarette Tax Increases: If the Poor are the Ones Smoking, How Could Cigarette Tax Increases be Progressive?

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  • Greg Colman
  • Dahlia K. Remler

Abstract

Cigarette smoking is concentrated among low income groups. Consequently, cigarette taxes are considered regressive. However, if poorer individuals are much more price sensitive than richer individuals, then tax increases would reduce smoking much more among the poor and their cigarette tax expenditures as a share of income would rise by much less than for the rich. Warner (2000) said this phenomenon would make cigarette tax increases progressive. We test this empirically. Among low-, middle-, and high-income, we estimate total price elasticities of -0.37, -0.35, and -0.20, respectively. We find that cigarette tax increases are not close to progressive using both tax expenditure-based and traditional welfare measures. This finding is robust to cross-border purchasing, generic cigarettes, and substantial external effects. However, we find that taxes can be progressive under some behavioral economic models (Gruber & Koszegi, 2004) but that these may only apply to a small share of smokers.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 10906.

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Date of creation: Nov 2004
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Publication status: published as Gregory J. Colman & Dahlia K. Remler, 2008. "Vertical equity consequences of very high cigarette tax increases: If the poor are the ones smoking, how could cigarette tax increases be progressive?," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 27(2), pages 376-400.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10906

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Cited by:
  1. Adel Bosch and Steven F. Koch, 2014. "Using a Natural Experiment to Examine Tobacco Tax Regressivity," Working Papers 434, Economic Research Southern Africa.
  2. Donald S. Kenkel & Maximilian D. Schmeiser & Carly J. Urban, 2014. "Is Smoking Inferior? Evidence from Variation in the Earned Income Tax Credit," NBER Working Papers 20097, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Gospodinov, Nikolay & Irvine, Ian, 2009. "Tobacco taxes and regressivity," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(2), pages 375-384, March.
  4. Dave, Dhaval & Saffer, Henry, 2013. "Demand for smokeless tobacco: Role of advertising," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(4), pages 682-697.
  5. Steven F. Koch & Gauthier Tshiswaka-Kashalala, 2008. "Tobacco Substitution and the Poor," Working Papers 200832, University of Pretoria, Department of Economics.
  6. 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.

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