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Taxing sin goods and subsidizing health care


  • CREMER, Helmuth
  • DE DONDER, Philippe
  • MALDONADO, Dario
  • PESTIEAU, Pierre

    (Université catholique de Louvain (UCL). Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE))


We consider a two-period model. In the first period, individuals consume two goods: one is sinful and the other is not. The sin good brings pleasure but has a detrimental effect on second period health and individuals tend to underestimate this effect. In the second period, individuals can devote part of their saving to improve their health status and thus compensate for the damage caused by their sinful consumption. We consider two alternative specifications concerning this second period health care decision: either individuals acknowledge that they have made a mistake in the first period out of myopia or ignorance, or they persist in ignoring the detrimental effect of their sinful consumption. We study the optimal linear taxes on sin good consumption, saving and health care expenditures for a paternalistic social planner. We compare those taxes in the two specifications. We show under which circumstances the first best outcome can be decentralized and we study the second best taxes when saving is unobservable.

Suggested Citation

  • CREMER, Helmuth & DE DONDER, Philippe & MALDONADO, Dario & PESTIEAU, Pierre, 2008. "Taxing sin goods and subsidizing health care," CORE Discussion Papers 2008031, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  • Handle: RePEc:cor:louvco:2008031

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. O'Donoghue, Ted & Rabin, Matthew, 2006. "Optimal sin taxes," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(10-11), pages 1825-1849, November.
    2. Ted O'Donoghue & Matthew Rabin, 2003. "Studying Optimal Paternalism, Illustrated by a Model of Sin Taxes," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(2), pages 186-191, May.
    3. Besley, Timothy, 1988. "A simple model for merit good arguments," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 35(3), pages 371-383, April.
    4. Gruber, Jonathan & Koszegi, Botond, 2004. "Tax incidence when individuals are time-inconsistent: the case of cigarette excise taxes," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(9-10), pages 1959-1987, August.
    5. 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.
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    Cited by:

    1. Marie-Louise Leroux, 2011. "Endogenous differential mortality, non-contractible effort and non-linear taxation," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 18(1), pages 56-73, February.
    2. Pierre Pestieau & Gregory Ponthiere, 2012. "The Public Economics of Increasing Longevity," Hacienda Pública Española, IEF, vol. 200(1), pages 41-74, March.
    3. Catarina Goulão & Agustín Pérez-Barahona, 2014. "Intergenerational Transmission of Noncommunicable Chronic Diseases," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 16(3), pages 467-490, June.
    4. Marie-Louise Leroux & Pierre Pestieau & Gregory Ponthiere, 2011. "Optimal linear taxation under endogenous longevity," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 24(1), pages 213-237, January.
    5. Pierre Pestieau & Gregory Ponthiere, 2012. "Myopia, regrets, and risky behaviors," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 19(2), pages 288-317, April.
    6. Kalamov, Zarko Y., 2016. "A Sales Tax Is Better at Promoting Healthy Diets than the Fat Tax and the Thin Subsidy," EconStor Preprints 148007, ZBW - German National Library of Economics.
    7. Kamila Danilowicz-Gösele & Robert Schwager, 2016. "Subsidizing Health-Conscious Behavior Now or Later," CESifo Working Paper Series 5734, CESifo Group Munich.
    8. Réquillart, Vincent & Soler, Louis-Georges & Zang, Yu, 2016. "Quality standards versus nutritional taxes: Health and welfare impacts with strategic firms," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(C), pages 268-285.
    9. Bonnet, Céline & Réquillart, Vincent, 2013. "Tax incidence with strategic firms in the soft drink market," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 106(C), pages 77-88.
    10. Pierre Pestieau & Grégory Ponthiere, 2012. "On the Policy Implications of Changing Longevity," CESifo Working Paper Series 3926, CESifo Group Munich.
    11. Goulão, Catarina & Pérez-Barahona, Agustín, 2011. "Intergenerational transmission of non-communicable chronic diseases," TSE Working Papers 11-219, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE).
    12. Bossi, Luca & Calcott, Paul & Petkov, Vladimir, 2013. "Optimal tax rules and addictive consumption," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 37(5), pages 984-1000.
    13. Danilowicz, Kamila & Schwager, Robert, 2013. "Subsidizing Health-Conscious Behavior Now or Later," Annual Conference 2013 (Duesseldorf): Competition Policy and Regulation in a Global Economic Order 80008, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    14. Cremer, Helmuth & Goulão, Catarina & Roeder, Kerstin, 2016. "Earmarking and the political support of fat taxes," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(C), pages 258-267.
    15. repec:sos:sosjrn:180109 is not listed on IDEAS
    16. John T. Revesz, 2014. "A Numerical Model of Optimal Differentiated Indirect Taxation," Hacienda Pública Española, IEF, vol. 211(4), pages 9-66, December.
    17. Cheng, Chu-Chuan & Chu, Hsun, 2017. "Optimal Policies for Sin Goods and Health Care: Tax or Subsidy?," MPRA Paper 80183, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item


    paternalism; behavioral; economics; dual self v single self.;

    JEL classification:

    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health

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