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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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  • Gregory J. Colman

    (Pace University)

  • Dahlia K. Remler

    (Baruch College, City University of New York)

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 groups, 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. © 2008 by the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management.

Suggested Citation

  • 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:wly:jpamgt:v:27:y:2008:i:2:p:376-400 DOI: 10.1002/pam.20329
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    Cited by:

    1. Steven F. Koch & Gauthier Tshiswaka-Kashalala, 2008. "Tobacco Substitution and the Poor," Working Papers 200832, University of Pretoria, Department of Economics.
    2. repec:kap:reveho:v:15:y:2017:i:4:d:10.1007_s11150-015-9290-0 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. 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.
    4. Adel Bosch and Steven F. Koch, 2014. "Using a Natural Experiment to Examine Tobacco Tax Regressivity," Working Papers 434, Economic Research Southern Africa.
    5. Donald S. Kenkel & Maximilian D. Schmeiser & Carly Urban, 2014. "Is Smoking Inferior?: Evidence from Variation in the Earned Income Tax Credit," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 49(4), pages 1094-1120.
    6. Philip DeCicca & Donald Kenkel & Feng Liu, 2013. "Who Pays Cigarette Taxes? The Impact of Consumer Price Search," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 95(2), pages 516-529, May.
    7. Dave, Dhaval & Saffer, Henry, 2013. "Demand for smokeless tobacco: Role of advertising," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(4), pages 682-697.
    8. DeCicca, Philip & Kenkel, Donald & Liu, Feng, 2013. "Excise tax avoidance: The case of state cigarette taxes," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(6), pages 1130-1141.
    9. Salti, Nisreen & Brouwer, Elizabeth & Verguet, Stéphane, 2016. "The health, financial and distributional consequences of increases in the tobacco excise tax among smokers in Lebanon," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 170(C), pages 161-169.
    10. Kerry Anne McGeary & Dhaval M. Dave & Brandy J. Lipton & Timothy Roeper, 2017. "Impact of Comprehensive Smoking Bans on the Health of Infants and Children," NBER Working Papers 23995, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Michael F. Pesko & John A. Tauras & Jidong Huang & Frank J. Chaloupka, IV, 2016. "The Influence of Geography and Measurement in Estimating Cigarette Price Responsiveness," NBER Working Papers 22296, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Cowan Benjamin & Tefft Nathan, 2012. "Education, Maternal Smoking, and the Earned Income Tax Credit," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 12(1), pages 1-39, October.
    13. Gospodinov, Nikolay & Irvine, Ian, 2009. "Tobacco taxes and regressivity," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(2), pages 375-384, March.
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    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health

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