IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Consumer Response to Cigarette Excise Tax Changes


  • Chiou, Lesley

    (Occidental College)

  • Muehlegger, Eric

    (Harvard University)


We use a rich dataset of weekly cigarette sales to examine how consumers adapt their behavior before and after excise tax increases--whether by reducing demand, stockpiling, traveling to low-tax jurisdictions, or substituting towards lower-cost brands. Consumer response varies substantially for different types of cigarettes. Stockpiling primarily occurs for discount cigarettes and is most pronounced at stores far from lower-tax jurisdictions. Border-crossing is greatest at stores close to low-tax jurisdictions and occurs primarily for cigarettes sold by the carton. Finally, we find modest short-run substitution towards lower-cost brands following a tax-increase, consistent with consumers smoothing the transition to higher cigarette taxes. These differences in consumer behavior lead to meaningful differences in tax incidence--pass-through is higher for discount cigarettes which have more inelastic demand. Pass-through is lower near low-tax borders, especially for cigarettes sold by the carton for which cross-border evasion is greatest.

Suggested Citation

  • Chiou, Lesley & Muehlegger, Eric, 2010. "Consumer Response to Cigarette Excise Tax Changes," Working Paper Series rwp10-020, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecl:harjfk:rwp10-020

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Marion, Justin & Muehlegger, Erich, 2011. "Fuel tax incidence and supply conditions," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(9), pages 1202-1212.
    2. Philip DeCicca & Donald Kenkel & Alan Mathios & Yoon-Jeong Shin & Jae-Young Lim, 2008. "Youth smoking, cigarette prices, and anti-smoking sentiment," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 17(6), pages 733-749.
    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. Chouinard, Hayley & Perloff, Jeffrey M., 2004. "Incidence of federal and state gasoline taxes," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 83(1), pages 55-60, April.
    5. Keeler, Theodore E. & Hu, Teh-wei & Barnett, Paul G. & Manning, Willard G. & Sung, Hai-Yen, 1996. "Do cigarette producers price-discriminate by state? An empirical analysis of local cigarette pricing and taxation," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(4), pages 499-512, August.
    6. Stehr, Mark, 2005. "Cigarette tax avoidance and evasion," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 277-297, March.
    7. Poterba, James M., 1996. "Retail Price Reactions to Changes in State and Local Sales Taxes," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 49(2), pages 165-176, June.
    8. Coats, R. Morris, 1995. "A Note on Estimating Cross-Border Effects of State Cigarette Taxes," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 48(4), pages 573-84, December.
    9. Austan Goolsbee & Michael F. Lovenheim & Joel Slemrod, 2010. "Playing with Fire: Cigarettes, Taxes, and Competition from the Internet," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 2(1), pages 131-154, February.
    10. Chouinard Hayley H & Perloff Jeffrey M, 2007. "Gasoline Price Differences: Taxes, Pollution Regulations, Mergers, Market Power, and Market Conditions," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 7(1), pages 1-28, January.
    11. Stehr, Mark, 2007. "The Effect of Sunday Sales Bans and Excise Taxes on Drinking and Cross–Border Shopping for Alcoholic Beverages," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 60(1), pages 85-105, March.
    12. Donald S. Kenkel, 2005. "Are Alcohol Tax Hikes Fully Passed Through to Prices? Evidence from Alaska," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(2), pages 273-277, May.
    13. James Alm & Edward Sennoga & Mark Skidmore, 2009. "Perfect Competition, Urbanization, And Tax Incidence In The Retail Gasoline Market," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 47(1), pages 118-134, January.
    14. Mark D. Manuszak & Charles C. Moul, 2009. "How Far for a Buck? Tax Differences and the Location of Retail Gasoline Activity in Southeast Chicagoland," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 91(4), pages 744-765, November.
    15. Badi H. Baltagi & Rajeev K. Goel, 1990. "Quasi-Experimental Price Elasticity of Liquor Demand in the United States: 1960–83," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 72(2), pages 451-454.
    16. Gruber, Jonathan & Sen, Anindya & Stabile, Mark, 2003. "Estimating price elasticities when there is smuggling: the sensitivity of smoking to price in Canada," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(5), pages 821-842, September.
    17. Chiou Lesley & Muehlegger Erich, 2008. "Crossing the Line: Direct Estimation of Cross-Border Cigarette Sales and the Effect on Tax Revenue," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 8(1), pages 1-41, December.
    18. Jérôme Adda & Francesca Cornaglia, 2006. "Taxes, Cigarette Consumption, and Smoking Intensity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(4), pages 1013-1028, September.
    19. Poterba, James M., 1996. "Retail Price Reactions to Changes in State and Local Sales Taxes," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 49(2), pages 165-76, June.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. repec:taf:applec:v:48:y:2016:i:41:p:3976-3994 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Nicoletta Berardi & Patrick Sevestre & Marine Tépaut & Alexandre Vigneron, 2016. "The impact of a ‘soda tax’ on prices: evidence from French micro data," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 48(41), pages 3976-3994, September.
    3. Kyle Rozema & Nicolas Ziebarth, 2015. "Behavioral Responses to Taxation: Cigarette Taxes and Food Stamp Take-Up," Working Papers 150015, Canadian Centre for Health Economics.
    4. Caitlan Russell & Corne van Walbeek, 2016. "How does a change in the excise tax on beer impact beer retail prices in South Africa?," SALDRU Working Papers 162, Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, University of Cape Town.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D10 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - General
    • D40 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - General
    • H20 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - General
    • H70 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - General

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ecl:harjfk:rwp10-020. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.