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The Tobacco Deal

  • Jeremy Bulow

    (Graduate School of Business, Stanford University, USA)

  • Paul Klemperer

    (Nuffield College, Oxford University, UK)

[Forthcoming in Brookings Papers on Economic Activity] We analyse the major economic issues raised by the 1997 Tobacco Resolution and the ensuing proposed legislation that were intended to settle tobacco litigation in the United States. By settling litigation largely in return for tax increases, the Resolution was a superb example of a "win- win" deal. The taxes would cost the companies about $1 billion per year, but yield the government about $13 billion per year, and allow the lawyers to claim fees based on hundreds of billions in “damages”. Only consumers, in whose name many of the lawsuits were filed, lost out. Though the strategy seems brilliant for the parties involved, the execution was less intelligent. We show that alternative taxes would be considerably superior to those proposed, and explain problems with the damage payments required from the firms, and the legal protections offered to them. We argue that the legislation was not particularly focused on youth smoking, despite the rhetoric. However, contrary to conventional wisdom, youth smokers are not especially valuable to the companies, so marketing restrictions are a sensible part of any deal. The individual state settlements set very dangerous examples which could open up unprecedented opportunities for collusion throughout the economy, and the multistate settlement of November 1998 is equally flawed. The fees proposed for the lawyers (around $15 billion) and the equally remarkable proposed payoff for Liggett (perhaps $400 million annually, for a company with a prior market value of about $100 million) also set terrible examples. We conclude with some views about how public policy might do better.

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Paper provided by EconWPA in its series HEW with number 9904002.

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Length: 63 pages
Date of creation: 09 Apr 1999
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwphe:9904002
Note: Type of Document - Tex/pdf; prepared on IBM PC ; to print on HP/PostScript/; pages: 63; figures: included. We never published this piece and now we would like to reduce our mailing and xerox cost by posting it.
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  1. Bulow, Jeremy I. & Klemperer, Paul, 1991. "Rational Frenzies and Crashes," CEPR Discussion Papers 593, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. 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.
  3. Beggs, Alan & Klemperer, Paul, 1990. "Multi-Period Competition with Switching Costs," CEPR Discussion Papers 436, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. Gary S. Becker & Michael Grossman & Kevin M. Murphy, 1990. "An Empirical Analysis of Cigarette Addiction," NBER Working Papers 3322, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Sumner, Michael T & Ward, Robert, 1981. "Tax Changes and Cigarette Prices [An Alternative Approach to the Analysis of Taxation]," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(6), pages 1261-65, December.
  6. Decicca, P. & Kenkel, D. & Mathios, A., 2000. "Putting Out the Fires: Will Higher Taxes Reduce Youth Smoking," Papers 00-3, Aarhus School of Business - Department of Economics.
  7. Milgrom, Paul & Roberts, John, 1982. "Predation, reputation, and entry deterrence," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 280-312, August.
  8. W. Kip Viscusi, 1994. "Cigarette Taxation and the Social Consequences of Smoking," NBER Working Papers 4891, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Barzel, Yoram, 1976. "An Alternative Approach to the Analysis of Taxation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 84(6), pages 1177-97, December.
  10. Kenneth Elzinga & David Mills, 1997. "The Distribution and Pricing of Prescription Drugs," International Journal of the Economics of Business, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 4(3), pages 287-300.
  11. Padilla A. Jorge, 1995. "Revisiting Dynamic Duopoly with Consumer Switching Costs," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 67(2), pages 520-530, December.
  12. Sobel, Russell S & Garrett, Thomas A, 1997. "Taxation and Product Quality: New Evidence from Generic Cigarettes," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(4), pages 880-87, August.
  13. Kenneth S. Corts, 1998. "Third-Degree Price Discrimination in Oligopoly: All-Out Competition and Strategic Commitment," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 29(2), pages 306-323, Summer.
  14. Joseph Farrell and Carl Shapiro., 1988. "Dynamic Competition with Switching Costs," Economics Working Papers 8865, University of California at Berkeley.
  15. Fiona Scott Morton, 1997. "The Strategic Response by Pharmaceutical Firms to the Medicaid Most-Favored-Customer Rules," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 28(2), pages 269-290, Summer.
  16. Varian, Hal R., 1989. "Price discrimination," Handbook of Industrial Organization, in: R. Schmalensee & R. Willig (ed.), Handbook of Industrial Organization, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 10, pages 597-654 Elsevier.
  17. Frank J. Chaloupka & Michael Grossman, 1996. "Price, Tobacco Control Policies and Youth Smoking," NBER Working Papers 5740, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  19. Sumner, Daniel A, 1981. "Measurement of Monopoly Behavior: An Application to the Cigarette Industry," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(5), pages 1010-19, October.
  20. David Kreps & Robert Wilson, 1999. "Reputation and Imperfect Information," Levine's Working Paper Archive 238, David K. Levine.
  21. repec:tpr:qjecon:v:113:y:1998:i:1:p:43-77 is not listed on IDEAS
  22. Klemperer, Paul, 1995. "Competition When Consumers Have Switching Costs: An Overview with Applications to Industrial Organization, Macroeconomics, and International Trade," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 62(4), pages 515-39, October.
  23. Ian Ayres & Steven D. Levitt, 1997. "Measuring Positive Externalities from Unobservable Victim Precaution: An Empirical Analysis of Lojack," NBER Working Papers 5928, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  24. Merriman, David, 1994. "Do Cigarette Excise Tax Rates Maximize Revenue?," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 32(3), pages 419-28, July.
  25. repec:tpr:qjecon:v:102:y:1987:i:2:p:375-94 is not listed on IDEAS
  26. Klemperer, Paul D, 1987. "Entry Deterrence in Markets with Consumer Switching Costs," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 97(388a), pages 99-117, Supplemen.
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