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Cigarette Taxation and the Social Consequences of Smoking

In: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 9

  • W. Kip Viscusi

This paper assesses the appropriate cigarette tax needed to address potential market failures. There is no evidence of inadequate risk decisions by smokers regarding their own welfare. Detailed calculations of the financial externalities of smoking indicate that the financial savings from premature mortality in terms of lower nursing home costs and retirement pensions exceed the higher medical care and life insurance costs generated. The costs of environmental tobacco smoke are highly uncertain, but of potentially substantial magnitude. Even with recognition of these costs, current cigarette taxes exceed the magnitude of the estimated net externalities.

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This chapter was published in:
  • James M. Poterba, 1995. "Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 9," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number pote95-1, May.
  • This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 10891.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:10891
    Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
    Phone: 617-868-3900
    Web page: http://www.nber.orgEmail:


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    1. Becker, Gary S & Grossman, Michael & Murphy, Kevin M, 1994. "An Empirical Analysis of Cigarette Addiction," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(3), pages 396-418, June.
    2. Ippolito, Pauline M. & Ippolito, Richard A., 1984. "Measuring the value of life saving from consumer reactions to new information," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(1-2), pages 53-81, November.
    3. 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.
    4. Harris, Jeffrey E, 1980. "Taxing Tar and Nicotine," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 70(3), pages 300-311, June.
    5. Poterba, J.M., 1989. "Lifetime Incidence And The Distributional Burden Of Excise Taxes," Working papers 510, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
    6. Wasserman, Jeffrey & Manning, Willard G. & Newhouse, Joseph P. & Winkler, John D., 1991. "The effects of excise taxes and regulations on cigarette smoking," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 43-64, May.
    7. Viscusi, W Kip, 1990. "Do Smokers Underestimate Risks?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(6), pages 1253-69, December.
    8. John B. Shoven & Jeffrey O. Sundberg & John P. Bunker, 1987. "The Social Security Cost of Smoking," NBER Working Papers 2234, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Grossman, Michael, 1991. "The demand for cigarettes," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 101-103, May.
    10. Joni Hersch & W. Kip Viscusi, 1990. "Cigarette Smoking, Seatbelt Use, and Differences in Wage-Risk Tradeoffs," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 25(2), pages 202-227.
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