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Do Cigarette Taxes Make Smokers Happier

Author

Listed:
  • 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.

Suggested Citation

  • Gruber Jonathan H & Mullainathan Sendhil, 2005. "Do Cigarette Taxes Make Smokers Happier," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 5(1), pages 1-45, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:bpj:bejeap:v:advances.5:y:2005:i:1:n:4
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. 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.
    2. David G. Blanchflower & Andrew Oswald, 2000. "The Rising Well-Being of the Young," NBER Chapters,in: Youth Employment and Joblessness in Advanced Countries, pages 289-328 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    5. Clark, Andrew E & Oswald, Andrew J, 1994. "Unhappiness and Unemployment," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 104(424), pages 648-659, May.
    6. Chaloupka, Frank J. & Warner, Kenneth E., 2000. "The economics of smoking," Handbook of Health Economics,in: A. J. Culyer & J. P. Newhouse (ed.), Handbook of Health Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 29, pages 1539-1627 Elsevier.
    7. 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.
    8. 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.
    9. Jonathan Gruber & Botond Köszegi, 2001. "Is Addiction "Rational"? Theory and Evidence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(4), pages 1261-1303.
    10. Jonathan Gruber & Botond Koszegi, 2000. "Is Addiction "Rational"? Theory and Evidence," NBER Working Papers 7507, 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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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H2 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue
    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health

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