Economics Smoking Health
The Economics of Smoking
Economics of Smoking - p. 1
1. Introduction and overview
Historically one of the oldest and most important crops in the United
States, tobacco has become embroiled in the second half of the twentieth
century in a struggle pitting American economic against public health
interests. While the tobacco industry ranks among the most substantial and
successful economic enterprises in the U.S., tobacco products are associatedYou can get expert help with your essays right now. Find out more...
with more deaths than any other product (U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services, 1989, 1998). Tobacco products, and particularly cigarettes, which
account for 95% of U.S. tobacco product sales, are credited with approximately
one-fifth of the nation's annual death toll. Cigarettes cause fully a third
of deaths during middle age. The leading cause of lung cancer and chronic
obstructive pulmonary disease mortality, as well as a major cause of
cardiovascular death, cigarette smoking leads all other causes of death in
virtually all industrialized nations. According to an epidemiological
analysis sponsored by the World Health Organization, tobacco will become the
leading cause of death in developing countries during the first third of the
21st century. By 2030, tobacco will be responsible for 10 million deaths
annually worldwide (Peto et al., forthcoming), a toll that will exceed by far
that associated with any other cause of disease (Murray and Lopez, 1996).
Formal economic analysis of tobacco dates back at least half a century
(Tennant, 1950). At that time, most tobacco industry economic analysis was
motivated by the factors that prompted market analysis of any other product or
service, such as a desire on the part of an industry to understand the degree
of price elasticity of demand for its product, or the interest of government
and academic economists in the causes and implications of market
concentration. Beginning in the late 1960s, however, following publication of
seminal British and American reports on smoking and health (Royal College of
Physicians, 1962; U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, 1964),
the focus of economic research shifted from a general industrial organization
orientation toward analysis self-consciously relevant to the public health
Economics of Smoking - p. 2
damage wrought by tobacco. The subsequent economic analysis has been
motivated by a desire to determine how economic forces influence tobacco
consumption, with continuing emphasis on refining the scientific rigor of the
work; but the objective of much of the research is now to determine how to
harness economic forces and logic, how to use economic tools, to decrease
smoking, with the ultimate goal being to reduce the toll of tobacco. 1
Certainly the most important example of this phenomenon has been the
rapidly expanding and increasingly sophisticated body of research on the
effects of price increases on cigarette consumption. Because excise tax
comprises an important component of price, the resultant literature has played
a prominent role in legislative debates about using taxation as a principal
tool to discourage smoking in individual states, in the U.S. as a whole, and
in numerous other countries as well. In the United States in the late 1990s,
the findings of this literature have been showcased in the intense
congressional debate over whether to adopt comprehensive tobacco control
legislation, with a major price increase lying at the heart of all proposals
This chapter examines in detail economic analysis of the relationships
among taxation, price, consumption, and disease outcomes, as well as
considering how analysis has enlightened other debates about the economics of
tobacco. The relationship between price and cigarette consumption has been
the focal point of economic research on smoking, and the locus of increasingly
sophisticated and interesting development of theory and methodology. For
these reasons, and because the resultant literature constitutes the most
1 Not all of the research is motivated by a desire to decrease smoking.
Some authors express the opinion that more respect should be accorded consumer
sovereignty, despite the issues of addiction and youthful initiation of
smoking that have led many economists to perceive the market for cigarettes as
suffering from important market imperfections (Warner et al., 1995). See, for
example, Viscusi (1992) and Tollison and Wagner (1992).
Economics of Smoking - p. 3
important contribution of economics to understanding tobacco policy, this
chapter's principal emphasis is on this body of research. The chapter devotes
special consideration to recent attempts to model nicotine addiction in the
context of rational economic behavior. Borne of a generic interest in the
role of addiction in economic behavior, new theoretical models have received
their best empirical testing through the use of data on cigarette smoking. 2
The chapter also considers a variety of equity and efficiency concerns
that invariably accompany debates about cigarette taxation, including the
validity of the externality or social cost argument frequently invoked by the
public health community in calls for higher taxes; whether there are other
legitimate grounds in economic theory to support increased excise taxation;
whether cigarette tax increases are regressive, and if so how much; and
whether large tax hikes produce substantial cross-border smuggling of
cigarettes. Recent economic studies have explored subtle impacts of cigarette
taxation that receive attention here as well; for example, cross-price
elasticity issues include how cigarette taxation may shift demand toward other
tobacco products, such as smokeless tobacco, or, within the cigarette family,
from lower to higher tar and nicotine cigarettes.
Coverage in this chapter also includes attention to economic analysis of
the role of advertising in the demand for cigarettes, as well as the role of
restrictions or bans on advertising. The effects of advertising and of
advertising and other marketing restrictions are of special interest due to
their prominence in debates about tobacco control at all levels of government,
from municipalities, which have restricted cigarette advertising on public
transit and on billboards, to international bodies, which have called for
2 As is discussed below, numerous variables other than price influence the
demand for cigarettes, including consumers' knowledge of the hazards of
smoking, parental and sibling smoking behavior, smoking by peers, role
modeling, income, and education (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,
1994). The near-exclusive focus of this chapter on price and taxation
reflects the facts that tax is the most policy-tractable variable influencing
the demand for cigarettes and that the economics literature has focused on
price, taxation, and addiction.
Economics of Smoking - p. 4
complete bans (Roemer, 1993). Although its value is constrained by obvious
limitations, econometric analysis offers insights into the role of
advertising, and of advertising restrictions, on the demand for cigarettes.
The chapter also examines what is known about the influence of other
tobacco control policies on the demand for cigarettes, including the
development and dissemination of information on the health consequences of
smoking; media advocacy by means of "counter-advertising;" the adoption and
implementation of laws or policies that limit smoking in public places; and
legal restrictions on youth access to tobacco products.
Given tobacco's role in employment, tax revenues, and, in selected
countries, trade balances, governments have a legitimate interest in the
"health" of their tobacco industries. Tobacco companies tout the industry's
economic contribution in attempts to combat tobacco control policy measures.
In recent years, independent economists have countered the industry's economic
argument by carrying out macroeconomic analyses that examine the net
contributions of tobacco to economies, rather than the gross contributions
featured by the industry. This literature, and its role in the debate over
tobacco control policy, are examined toward the end of the chapter. Also
considered briefly is the influence of tobacco agriculture support policies so
prominent in the agricultural policies of the United States and the European
Despite its wide scope of coverage, this chapter does not examine all of
the economic contributions relating to smoking and health. To illustrate with
two examples, the chapter does not consider the growing literature on the
cost-effectiveness of smoking cessation interventions ( Cromwell et al., 1997;
Warner, 1997) and it omits the newly emerging and potentially quite important
analysis of the economics of the market for nicotine replacement products
(Oster et al., 1996; Hu et al., 1998). Another limitation on coverage is that
we consider almost exclusively English language publications, believed to
comprise a very sizable majority of the peer-reviewed literature. Further,
Economics of Smoking - p. 5
reflecting the authors' knowledge of this field and familiarity with data,
examples draw heavily, although not exclusively, on the U.S. experience. In
particular, there is little coverage of the economics of smoking in developing
countries, the result primarily of the dearth of studies on the subject.
Although specific empirical conclusions from a given country may not apply
precisely to other nations, the general phenomena described and findings
presented should apply qualitatively to all countries, unless otherwise
Before turning to the economics literature, the remainder of this
introductory section presents a brief "primer" on the health consequences of
tobacco use. We deem this important background for understanding the nature
and social significance of the economic issues.
1.2 Health consequences of tobacco consumption
The health implications of tobacco have been contemplated for at least
the past millenium. During the first half of that period, the predominant
view held that tobacco afforded users a wide variety of health benefits. The
Amerindians employed tobacco as an analgesic and as a treatment for such
diverse ailments as intestinal problems, asthma, rheumatism, headaches,
toothaches, boils, worms, fevers, and the pains of childbirth (Goodman, 1993).
Serious medical and scientific attention to the health consequences of
smoking is a phenomenon of the present century, primarily of its second half. 3
This is a reflection of the development of the science of epidemiology during
3 Concern about the health consequences of smoking predates the "modern
era" by nearly four centuries. In 1604, for example, King James I of England
lambasted smoking as "a custome lothsome to the eye, hatefull to the Nose,
harmefull to the braine, dangerous to the Lungs, and in the blacke stinking
fume thereof, neerest resembling the horrible Stigian smoke of the pit that is
bottomlesse" (as quoted in Sullum, 1998, p. 18). King James subsequently
raised the tax on tobacco by 1000%, deriving significant revenues for his
coffers. This illustrates the profound dilemma that has confronted policy
decision makers ever since: whatever its health consequences, tobacco has
long been truly a "golden leaf" for farmers and politicians alike. Its role
in the very earliest commerce between England and the American colonies is
legendary, as is its role in contemporary politics (Taylor, 1984; Fritschler
and Hoefler, 1996).
Economics of Smoking - p. 6
this period and of the relatively modest number of victims claimed by tobacco
prior to the 20th century. Before this century, relatively few people reached
the ages at which tobacco takes its greatest toll (average life expectancy in
the U.S. was 47 in 1900; currently it is 75). More importantly, widespread
intensive use of the most dangerous form of tobacco consumption, cigarette
smoking, began only in the very late 1800s. Lung cancer, today the source of
30% of all cancer deaths in the U.S. (U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services, 1989), was a rarity until earlier cigarette smoking spawned the
epidemic first widely observed during the 1930s.
Although a few scientific studies associated smoking with disease prior
to mid-century (Broders, 1920; Lombard and Doering, 1928; Pearl, 1938), the
first evidence that strongly implicated smoking in disease (specifically, lung
cancer) was published in the 1950s (Wynder and Graham, 1950; Doll and Hill,
1954, 1956; Hammond and Horn, 1958a, 1958b). Since then, some 70,000
scientific articles have implicated smoking in a wide variety of ailments,
constituting the largest and best documented literature linking any behavior
to disease in humans (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1994).
Today, cigarette smoking is esta blished as the leading cause of lung
cancer (responsible for approximately 90% of lung cancer deaths in the U.S.),
the leading cause of chronic bronchitis and emphysema (responsible for over
80% of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease deaths), and a major cause of
heart disease and stroke. Smoking also causes aneurysms, atherosclerotic
peripheral vascular disease, oral cavity and laryngeal cancer, intrauterine
growth retardation and neonatal death, including SIDS (Sudden Infant Death
Syndrome). It is associated with additional cancers (bladder, pancreatic,
renal, gastric, and cervical) (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,
1989), as well as a host of other conditions affecting a wide variety of organ
systems and disease processes, including, for example, vision and hearing
problems, slowed healing from injuries, and increased susceptibility to
certain infections (Napier, 1996). Chronic inhalation of environmental
Economics of Smoking - p. 7
tobacco smoke (ETS) causes lung cancer in nonsmokers and an assortment of
diseases and functional limitations in the children of smokers (Environmental
Protection Agency, 1994). ETS may be responsible for tens of thousands of
heart disease deaths annually ( Glantz and Parmley, 1995).
All told, smoking is far and away the leading cause of premature death
and of avoidable morbidity and disability in the United States and in most
industrialized nations. As indicated above, the intensification of smoking in
the world's less affluent nations will soon bring the same distinction to
smoking in the developing countries. Barring substantial and unexpected
decreases in tobacco use worldwide, a few decades hence the global death toll
from tobacco will dwarf all other causes, with the majority of deaths
occurring in the developing nations. The World Health Organization estimates
that fully 500 million of the 5 billion people alive at the beginning of this
decade will die as a result of consumption of tobacco products ( Peto et al.,
The mortality toll of tobacco reflects not only the le thality of tobacco
products but also the prevalence of their consumption. In the United States,
approximately 45 million adults, almost a quarter of the adult population,
smoke cigarettes (down from a high of 42% in 1965 (U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services, 1989)). Worldwide, tobacco products are used by
approximately one billion people. The large numbers of tobacco consumers,
combined with their frequent use of tobacco products, account not only for the
disease toll of tobacco, but also for the substantial size of the tobacco
industry. Important features of the structure and economic importance of the
industry are reviewed in section 6 below.
2. The impact of price on the demand for tobacco products
Many researchers once viewed cigarette smo king and other addictive
behaviors as irrational and therefore not suitable for conventional economic
analysis (Elster, 1979; Winston, 1980; Schelling, 1984b). They believed that
Economics of Smoking - p. 8
the demand for cigarettes (and other addictive substances) did not follow the
basic laws of economics, including perhaps the most fundamental law, that
embodied in the downward-sloping demand curve. As the now-substantial body of
economic research demonstrates, however, the demand for cigarettes clearly
responds to changes in prices and other factors, as found in applications of
both traditional models of demand and more recent studies that explicitly
account for the addictive nature of smoking.
Conceptually, economists use a relatively broad definition of price that
includes not only the monetary price of purchasing a product, but also the
time and other costs associated with using the product. Restrictions on
smoking in public places and private work sites, for example, impose
additional costs on smokers by forcing them outdoors to smoke, raising the
time and discomfort associated with smoking, or by imposing fines for smoking
in restricted areas. Similarly, limits on youth access to tobacco may raise
the time and potential legal costs associated with smoking by minors, while
new information on the health consequences of tobacco use can raise the
perceived long-term costs of smoking. This section focuses on the effects of
monetary price on demand, while section 5 below considers the effects of other
aspects of full price.
In addition to price, a variety of other factors can affect the demands
for cigarettes and other tobacco products, including income, advertising and
other promotional activities, and tastes. In the industrialized nations, the
relationship between income and cigarette consumption has reversed. Early
demand studies (for example, Ippolito, et al., 1979; Fujii, 1980) concluded
that cigarette smoking was a normal good, with cigarette consumption rising as
income rose. More recent studies, however, have found that cigarettes have
become an inferior good, in that the likelihood of smoking declines as income
rises (Wasserman, et al., 1991; Townsend et al., 1994). The effects of
advertising and promotion on the demand for cigarettes have been the subject
of numerous studies; these are reviewed in detail in section 4 below.
Economics of Smoking - p. 9
Finally, nearly all econometric studies of cigarette demand use a variety of
factors to control for tastes, including gender, race, education, marital
status, employment status, and religiosity. Given the focus of this book on
economics, the impact of these socio-demographic determinants of demand will
not be reviewed.4
This section begins with a review of conventional studies of the impact
of money price on cigarette demand. This is followed by a discussion of
economic models of addiction and their applications to cigarette demand.
Implications for the effects of price on cigarette demand from the relatively
new field of behavioral economics are then reviewed. The section closes with
a short consideration of the relatively limited research on the effects of
price on the demand for other tobacco products.
2.1 Conventional studies of cigarette demand
Numerous investigators have estimated the effects of price on cigarette
demand using conventional models of demand that do not account for the
addictive nature of cigarette smoking. Their studies have used diverse
econometric and other statistical methods on data from numerous countries.
Many used aggregate time-series data for a single geographical unit, while
others employed pooled cross-sectional time series data; still others used
individual level data taken from surveys. The price elasticity estimates for
overall cigarette demand from recent studies fall within the relatively wide
range from -0.14 to -1.23, but most fall in the narrower range from -0.3 to -
4 The importance of these variables should not be downplayed, however. In
many instances, these and other variables, such as parental and peer smoking
behavior and societal norms, are as important or more important than the
variables which economists have studied (U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services, 1994). Variations in these and other variables help to explain why
large variations in prices across countries are often not associated with
comparably large variations in smoking prevalence. Economists' interests
focus on the marginal impact of price, advertising, and other economic
variables on the demand for cigarettes.
Economics of Smoking - p. 10
2.1.1 Analysis of aggregate data
Many recent studies use aggregate data and appropriate econometric
methods to examine the effects of price on cigarette demand, controlling for
income, tobacco control policies, and a variety of socioeconomic and
demographic factors. The exceptions ( Baltagi and Goel, 1987; Peterson et al.,
1992) compared changes in cigarette consumption in states that had raised
cigarette taxes to consumption in states where taxes had not changed. The
estimated price elasticities from these quasi-experimental studies, in the
range from -0.17 to -0.56, are consistent with those obtained from the
Although there are numerous studies of the price-de mand relationship in
industrialized nations, until recently there were almost no estimates for
developing countries. Warner (1990) argued that price responsiveness in less
developed countries is likely to be greater than in more affluent countries,
given the relatively low incomes and relatively low levels of cigarette
consumption by smokers in the poorer countries. Findings from studies using
data from Papua New Guinea (Chapman and Richardson, 1990), China (Mao, 1996;
Xu, Hu and Keeler, 1998) South Africa (van der Merwe, 1998a), Zimbabwe
(Maranvanyika, 1998), and Taiwan (Hsieh and Hu, 1997) are consistent with this
Several difficulties are encountered in studies using time-series data.
Particularly troubling are the high correlations among many of the key
independent variables and price. Consequently, estimates of the impact of
price and other factors on demand can be sensitive to the inclusion and
exclusion of other variables. Including highly correlated variables can
result in multicollinearity and unstable estimates for the parameters of
interest. Excluding potentially important variables, however, can produce
biased estimates of the impact of price on demand. Recent studies using
state-of-the-art econometric methods have addressed many of these difficulties
(Seldon and Boyd, 1991; Simonich, 1991; Flewelling et al., 1992; Sung et al.,
Economics of Smoking - p. 11
1994; Barnett et al, 1995; Keeler et al., 1996). Nearly all of the estimates
from these studies have produced estimates for the price elasticity of demand
in a relatively narrow range, centered on -0.4.
Other problems are encountered when using pooled cross-sectional timeseries
data. The measure of cigarette smoking employed in these studies is
typically annual state-level tax-paid cigarette sales. Interstate differences
in cigarette prices, resulting from wide variation in state cigarette taxes
(Tobacco Institute, 1998), can lead to casual and organized smuggling of
cigarettes from low-tax to high-tax states, however (Advisory Commission on
Intergovernmental Relations (ACIR), 1977, 1985). As such, tax-paid sales data
are likely to overstate cigarette consumption in states with low cigarette
taxes and underestimate it in high tax states. 5 Failing to account for this
will produce upward-biased estimates of the impact of price on cigarette
demand. Many of the more recent studies employing pooled time-series crosssectional
state data have controlled for the potential for smuggling (ACIR,
1977, 1985; Baltagi and Levin, 1986; Chaloupka and Saffer, 1992; Keeler et
al., 1996). These studies have also produced estimates of the price
elasticity of cigarette demand generally falling in a relatively narrow range
centered on -0.4.
The fact that cigarette prices, sales, and consumption are
simultaneously determined creates an additional complication in the analysis
of cigarette demand and supply. Failing to account for this simultaneity
would lead to biased estimates of the price elasticity of demand. Again, many
of the recent studies employing aggregate time-series data for a single
country or other geographical unit, as well as many of those using pooled
cross-sectional time-series data, have avoided this problem by theoretically
and empirically modeling cigarette demand and supply (Bishop and Yoo, 1985;
5 The same problem exists in time-series studies using aggregate countrylevel
data for countries with relatively high taxes and prices compared to
neighboring countries. See Joossens (1998) for a discussion of factors other
than price that influence smuggling across country borders.
Economics of Smoking - p. 12
Porter, 1986; Showalter, 1991; Sung et al., 1994; Barnett et al., 1995;
Tremblay and Tremblay, 1995; and Keeler et al., 1996). Other studies have
taken advantage of natural experiments, most notably 25-cent increases in the
California and Massachusetts cigarette excise taxes, to look at the impact of
price on demand (Keeler et al., 1993; Hu et al., 1994, 1995b; Sung et al.,
1994; Harris et al., 1996). After accounting for the potential simultaneity
or taking advantage of natural experiments, most of these studies produce
estimates of the price elasticity of demand that fall into the same narrow
range found in other studies.
Finally, studies employing aggregate data are generally limited to
examining the impact of cigarette prices and other factors on aggregate or per
capita measures of cigarette consumption. Consequently, these studies are
typically unable to evaluate the differential impact of prices on smoking by
various population subgroups of particular interest, especially youth and
young adults. Nor can they differentiate between the impact of price on
smoking prevalence and quantity, or smoking initiation and cessation.
A few recent analyses have attempted to address these limitations. For
example, Harris (1994) used annual time-series data on U.S. smoking prevalence
taken from the National Health Interview Surveys, coupled with aggregate
measures of cigarette consumption, to estimate the effects of price on smoking
prevalence and average cigarette consumption by smokers for the period from
1964 through 1993. His estimate of the unconditional price elasticity of
demand fell into the same narrow range generally found in other studies. He
estimated that approximately half of the impact of price was on smoking
prevalence, with the price elasticity of smoking participation being -0.238,
while the unconditional price elasticity of demand was -0.47. Townsend et al.
(1994) looked at the differential effects of price on cigarette smoking for
various population subgroups defined by age, gender, and socioeconomic status,
using data aggregated from the 1972 through 1990 British General Household
Surveys. They concluded that women were more responsive to price than men,
Economics of Smoking - p. 13
that both men and women in lower socioeconomic groups were more sensitive to
price than those that were better off, and that youth (16-19 years) and young
adults (20-24 years) were less responsive to price than adults. 6
2.1.2 Analysis of individual level data
A relatively small but growing number of cigarette demand studies have
used data on individuals taken from large-scale surveys. In general, their
estimated price elasticities of demand are comparable to those estimated using
aggregate data. The use of individual-level data helps avoid some of the
problems inherent in using aggregate data. For example, because an
individual's smoking decisions are too small to affect the market price of
cigarettes, potential simultaneity biases are less likely. Similarly,
individual-level income data and measures of socio-demographic determinants of
demand are less correlated with price and policy variables than comparable
Other problems persist but can be addressed somewhat more easily using
individual-level data. For example, failing to account for interstate
differences in cigarette prices will again produce a biased estimate of the
price elasticity of demand (biased towards 0 in this case). Thus, given
information on where an individual resides, studies using individual-level
data have employed a variety of approaches to control for potential crossborder
shopping in response to interstate price differentials. Some have
limited their samples to individuals who do not live near lower-price
localities (Lewit and Coate, 1982; Wasserman et al., 1991; Chaloupka and
Grossman, 1996; Chaloupka and Wechsler, 1997). Others have included a measure
of the price differential (Lewit et al., 1981; Chaloupka and Pacula, 1998a,
1998b). Still others have used a weighted average price based on the price in
6 As we discuss below, other studies have derived the opposite conclusions
concerning the relative price responsiveness by gender (e.g., Lewit and Coate,
1982; Mullahy, 1985; Chaloupka, 1990) and different age groups (e.g. Lewit, et
al., 1981; Chaloupka and Grossman, 1996).
Economics of Smoking - p. 14
the own-locality and other nearby localities (Chaloupka, 1991).
As with the state tax-paid sales data, self-reported data on cigarette
smoking yield inaccurate measures of true consumption, given potential
reporting biases. Based on a comparison of self-reported consumption with
aggregate sales data, Warner (1978) demonstrated that survey-based selfreported
consumption significantly and substantially understated actual sales.
Studies using individual-level survey data have implicitly treated
underreporting as proportional to true consumption across groups of interest
(e.g., age, gender, or socioeconomic groups). If the assumption is true,
estimates of the price elasticity of demand will not be systematically biased.
The assumption has yet to be demonstrated, however.
Finally, as Wasserman et al. (1991) observed, studies using individuallevel
data may be subject to a substantial ecological bias in that omitted
variables affecting tobacco use may be correlated with the included
determinants of demand. Failing to account for this can produce biased
estimates for the included variables. For example, unobserved sentiment
against smoking may affect both cigarette sales and the strength of tobacco
control policies (including taxes and, consequently, prices). Ohsfeldt et al.
(1998) considered this possibility in their analysis of cigarette smoking and
other tobacco use that employed data from the 1992/93 Current Population
Survey Tobacco Use Supplements. Surprisingly, after modeling cigarette taxes
and other tobacco control policies as a function of cigarette smoking, various
other indicators of sentiment against smoking, and other factors, they found
that taxes have a larger impact on demand.
Using individual-level data allows researchers to examine issues that
generally cannot be addressed with aggregate data. For example, most studies
using individual-level data separately consider the effects of price on the
probability of smoking and on average cigarette consumption by smokers. In
addition, several consider the differential effects of price on demand for
various population subgroups (defined by age or gender, for example).
Economics of Smoking - p. 15
Finally, some have taken advantage of retrospective or longitudinal data to
examine the effects of prices and other factors on smoking initiation and
The earliest of the cigarette demand studies employing individual-level
data were conducted by Lewit and his colleagues (Lewit et al., 1981; Lewit and
Coate, 1982). Lewit and Coate used data from the 1976 National Health
Interview Survey to examine the effects of price on cigarette smoking,
estimating an overall price elasticity of demand of -0.42 and an elasticity of
smoking participation of -0.26. In addition, they found an inverse
relationship between (the absolute value of) price elasticity and age,
estimating a total price elasticity of demand for 20 through 25 year-olds more
than double that of persons 26 and older. The researchers found that most of
the effect of price for young adults was on the decision to smoke
(participation elasticity of -0.74 and conditional demand elasticity of -
0.20), but was about evenly split for those over 35 years of age
(participation and conditional demand elasticities of -0.15). Finally, they
also looked at differences in price responsiveness by gender, concluding that
men, particularly young men, were very responsive to price, while women were
generally insensitive to price.
Lewit et al. (1981) and Grossman et al. (1983) confirmed the Lewit and
Coate (1982) conclusion concerning the inverse relationship between price
elasticity of cigarette demand and age. Using data from Cycle III of the
Health Examination Survey, Lewit et al. estimated that the price elasticity of
smoking participation for 12-17 year-olds was -1.20, while the conditional
demand elasticity was -0.25. Their estimated total price elasticity of youth
cigarette demand of -1.44 was more than three times Lewit and Coate's (1982)
estimate for adults. These conclusions were generally supported by Grossman
et al.'s (1983) analysis of data from the National Household Surveys on Drug
Use conducted during the 1970s.
Lewit et al. (1981) offered two reasons why youth should be more price
Economics of Smoking - p. 16
sensitive than adults, at least in the short run. First, given the addictive
nature of smoking, long-term adult smokers are likely to adjust less quickly
to changes in price than youth who have been smoking for a relatively short
time, if at all. In addition, peer behavior is likely to be much more
influential for youth, multiplying the effects of price on youth smoking.
That is, an increase in cigarette price directly reduces youth smoking and
then again indirectly reduces it through its impact on peer smoking. Grossman
and Chaloupka (1997) offered two additional reasons. First, the fraction of
disposable income a young smoker spends on cigarettes is likely to exceed that
spent by an adult smoker. Second, compared to adults, youth are more likely
to be present-oriented. In the context of an economic model of addictive
behavior (discussed below), Becker et al. (1991) predicted that changes in
money price will have a greater impact on individuals with higher discount
rates since they give less weight to the future consequences of addictive
The conclusion that youth cigarette demand is more price elastic than
adult demand was widely accepted until an influential 1991 Rand study by
Wasserman and colleagues (1991). These researchers evaluated adults'
cigarette demand using data from several of the National Health Interview
Surveys from the 1970s and 1980s and youth demand with data from the Second
National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey of the late-1970s. Using a
generalized linear model, the authors concluded that adult demand in the
earlier years of their data was relatively unresponsive to price, but that
demand had become more price elastic over time. Based on the trends in price
elasticity, they predicted an overall price elasticity of adult cigarette
demand of -0.283 for 1988. Estimates from a two-part model of adult cigarette
demand implied that the effects of price on the decision to smoke were almost
double the impact of price on conditional demand. However, the authors did
not find a statistically significant impact of price on youth smoking. They
attributed their relatively low estimates of price elasticity, particularly
Economics of Smoking - p. 17
those for youth, to the inclusion in their models of an index of restrictions
on smoking. These restrictions, which they note are positively correlated
with price, had not been included in most previous studies of cigarette
demand. Indeed, they obtained very similar estimates to Lewit and Coate
(1982) when leaving the restriction index out of models estimated using the
1976 survey data.
Several more recent studies of youth and young adult smoking have
supported the earlier conclusions reached by Lewit and his colleagues (Lewit
et al., 1981; Lewit and Coate, 1982; Grossman et al., 1983) that the price
sensitivity of cigarette demand is inversely related to age. Chaloupka and
Grossman (1996) examined the impact of price, numerous tobacco control
policies (including smoking restrictions and limits on youth access to
tobacco), and a variety of other socioeconomic and demographic factors on
youth smoking, using data from the 1992, 1993, and 1994 Monitoring the Future
Surveys of eighth, tenth, and twelfth grade students. They estimated a total
price elasticity of youth cigarette demand of -1.31, strikingly similar to the
estimates obtained by Lewit et al. (1981) 15 years earlier. In contrast to
Lewit and his colleagues, however, Chaloupka and Grossman found that the
effects of price on smoking participation and conditional demand were similar
(-0.68 for smoking participation and -0.64 for conditional demand). Chaloupka
and Pacula (1998b) used the same data to look at the differential response by
gender and race, concluding that young men and young blacks are more
responsive to price than young women and young whites.
Chaloupka and Wechsler (1997) reached similar conclusions using data on
young adult smoking taken from the 1993 College Alcohol Survey. Also
controlling for numerous other determinants of cigarette demand, including a
variety of restrictions on smoking, they estimated a price elasticity of
smoking participation of -0.53 and an unconditional price elasticity of demand
of -1.11 for college students. Noting that their sample was not a random
sample of all young adults, Chaloupka and Wechsler suggested that the price
Economics of Smoking - p. 18
elasticity of cigarette demand by young adults may be even higher, given the
evidence that cigarette demand is relatively less elastic for more educated or
higher-income individuals (Townsend, 1987; Chaloupka, 1991; Townsend et al.,
1994; Farrelly et al., 1998).
Farrelly and his colleagues (1998) found similar evidence for young
adults and adults, based on 13 waves of the National Health Interview Survey
conducted between 1976 and 1992. They estimated that demand was more than
twice as elastic for their sample of young adults, ages 18 to 24 years (total
elasticity of -0.58), as for their full sample (total elasticity of -0.25).
Similarly, they estimated that blacks were about twice as responsive as whites
to cigarette prices, while Hispanics were even more price sensitive. In
addition, they found that men were more price sensitive than women. Finally,
they estimated that individuals with family incomes below the sample median
were about 70 percent more responsive to price than those with higher family
Additional support for the inverse relationship between price
sensitivity and age is provided by recent studies by Lewit and his colleagues
(1997), Evans and Huang (1998), and Tauras and Chaloupka (1998). Lewit and
his colleagues used data for ninth grade students in 1990 and 1992 collected
in the 22 North American communities involved in the National Cancer
Institute's Community Intervention Trial for Smoking Cessation (COMMIT). They
found that both youth smoking participation and intentions to smoke among
young non-smokers were inversely related to price, with estimated price
elasticities of -0.87 and -0.95, respectively. Evans and Huang used state
level aggregated data on smoking prevalence constructed from the 1977 through
1992 Monitoring the Future surveys to estimate a price elasticity of youth
smoking participation of -0.20. Unlike other studies on youth smoking that
largely rely on the cross-sectional variation in state cigarette taxes and
prices, Evans and Huang took advantage of the long time period covered by
their data and used the time series variation in state cigarette taxes to
Economics of Smoking - p. 19
identify the impact of cigarette taxes on smoking participation. While their
estimated elasticity for the 1977 through 1992 period is relatively low, Evans
and Huang concluded that youth smoking has become more price sensitive over
time, estimating an elasticity of -0.50 for youth smoking participation in the
period from 1985 through 1992. Most recently, Tauras and Chaloupka (1998)
used the longitudinal data from the Monitoring the Future surveys of high
school seniors conducted from 1976 through 1993 to estimate the price
elasticity of smoking for young adults; respondents in their sample ranged in
age from 17 to 35 years. In models controlling for unobserved state and
individual factors affecting demand, they estimated an overall price
elasticity of demand centered on -0.79.
In general, researchers examining the effects of price on smoking
participation using individual-level data from cross-sectional surveys have
assumed that much of the price effect estimated for youth reflects the impact
of price on smoking initiation, while the estimate for adults is largely
capturing the effects of price on smoking cessation. A few recent studies
have attempted to directly examine the impact of cigarette prices on smoking
initiation. With retrospective data from the smoking supplements to the 1978
and 1979 National Health Interview Surveys, Douglas and Hariharan (1994)
studied the ages at which survey respondents reported that they began smoking.
Based on current state of residence, they matched data on cigarette prices to
the survey data to estimate the impact of price on smoking initiation. They
estimated a hazard model in which "failure" was defined as a never smoker
taking up smoking and used a relatively general variation on standard duration
methods: the split population duration model developed by Schmidt and Witte
(1989). This model allows for a large part of their sample to never begin
smoking. Finally, Douglas and Hariharan's theoretical and empirical framework
was based on the Becker and Murphy (1988) rational addiction model (described
below). As anticipated, Douglas and Hariharan found that a number of
socioeconomic and demographic factors had a significant effect on smoking
Economics of Smoking - p. 20
initiation. However, their estimates for cigarette prices were insignificant.
Given the errors-in-variables problem associated with both the retrospective
data on smoking initiation and the cigarette price data, they noted that price
effects will be biased towards zero. Nevertheless, they found no evidence
that higher cigarette prices reduced smoking initiation.
Douglas (1998) extended this work by estimating a time-varying covariate
model that allows the hazard of smoking initiation to respond dynamically to
changes in prices and other factors. In addition to initiation, Douglas also
estimated the hazard of smoking cessation in a similar empirical framework, as
well as estimating the impact of smoking regulations and information on
initiation and cessation (these findings are discussed later). Using data
from the cancer risk factor supplement to the 1987 National Health Interview
Survey, Douglas again concluded that cigarette price has little impact on
smoking initiation. As with the earlier analysis, however, there are likely
to be errors-in-variables problems that could account for this finding.
DeCicca et al. (1998a) employed data from the National Education
Longitudinal Survey of 1988 to examine the impact of price on initiation of
daily smoking. This data set contains data on youth smoking at several points
in time (eighth, tenth, and twelfth grades). Treating the three waves as
independent cross-sections, they obtained estimates of the price elasticity of
youth smoking participation comparable to other recent estimates. In an
effort to examine the impact of price on smoking initiation, they attempted to
exploit the longitudinal aspect of their data by looking at the probability of
smoking in twelfth grade for a sample that excluded those who were smokers in
eighth grade. Their estimates for the effect of cigarette taxes on the
probability of starting to smoke between the eighth and twelfth grade are not
statistically significantly different from zero, supporting the findings of
Douglas and Hariharan (1994) and Douglas (1998) that raised doubts about the
hypothesis that higher cigarette prices lead to significant reductions in
youth smoking. DeCicca et al. attributed the inconsistency in their two sets
Economics of Smoking - p. 21
of results to the possibility that cigarette tax rates are a proxy for
unobserved sentiment against cigarette smoking. If true, then estimates based
on cross-sectional studies are likely to significantly overstate the impact of
price on smoking.
Dee and Evans (1998) reexamined the longitudinal data used by DeCicca et
al., arguing that their finding that price has no impact on smoking initiation
was largely the result of the way in which their sample was constructed. In
particular, rather than following DeCicca et al. in deleting the large number
of observations with missing values for key independent variables (including
income, parental education, and number of siblings), Dee and Evans included
these along with dummy variables indicating observations for which the data
are missing. In addition, they included a variety of binary indicators for
categorically collected data, rather than constructing "continuous" measures
from these data as did DeCicca et al. (e.g. parental and family attributes).
After making these changes but otherwise following the same basic approach,
Dee and Evans estimated a negative and significant impact of cigarette taxes
on smoking initiation. Their estimated price elasticity of smoking onset is -
0.63, consistent with several other recent studies of youth smoking employing
In response to Dee and Evans (1998), DeCicca and his colleagues (1998b)
conducted a reanalysis of the NELS data that used an alternative approach for
dealing with the missing data problem. Where possible, they used information
from the longitudinal sample to fill in missing values; when this could not be
done, they used a conditional mean imputation approach. Their reanalysis
produced somewhat more significant estimates for the effect of cigarette taxes
on the onset of daily smoking, with implied price elasticities from
alternative specifications ranging from -0.025 to -0.505; somewhat smaller,
less significant estimates were obtained from models using price rather than
tax. In addition, their estimates for samples based on race/ethnicity implied
that higher cigarette taxes significantly reduced smoking onset among
Economics of Smoking - p. 22
Hispanics, but had little impact on whites and blacks.
Clearly, the use of longitudinal data to examine the impact of cigarette
tax and price changes on smoking initiation and cessation is an important
advance. The findings from studies using relatively longer panels that
control for unobserved state and/or individual factors affecting demand (i.e.
Evans and Huang, 1998; Tauras and Chaloupka, 1998) are consistent with the
findings that price sensitivity is inversely related to age, as found in
several earlier studies based on cross-sectional data. The inconsistent
findings from a few recent studies ( DeCicca et al., 1998a, 1998b; Dee and
Evans, 1998) directly addressing the effects of price on smoking initiation
with a relatively short panel should be viewed with caution.
Hu et al. (1995a) introduced an innovation in cigarette demand
estimation, using data from California's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveys for
1985 through 1991 to examine the possible effects on adult smoking of the
interdependence of cigarette smoking with other risk factors, including
alcohol use and obesity. Estimates of the smoking participation elasticity
from models that included other behavioral risk factors were significantly
lower than when these factors were ignored, while conditional demand
elasticities were generally unaffected. Using two-part methods, Hu et al.
estimated an overall price elasticity of -0.46 from the models that included
other risks, with the effects of price about equally divided between smoking
participation and conditional demand. The authors noted, however, that their
estimate of the price elasticity might be relatively high given that they did
not control for other tobacco control efforts.
Evans and Farrelly (forthcoming) recently examined a phenomenon not
previously studied by economists. Using data from the 1979 Smoking Supplement
and the 1987 Cancer Control Supplement to the National Health Interview
Surveys, the authors investigated the compensating behavior by smokers in
response to tax and price changes. The supplements contain unique information
on smokers' choices of types of cigarettes, which Evans and Farrelly combined
Economics of Smoking - p. 23
with data from the Federal Trade Commission on the tar and nicotine content of
cigarette brands to construct a variety of measures of daily smoking intensity
(including cigarette consumption, total length of cigarettes consumed, tar
intake, and nicotine intake). They also constructed comparable aggregate
measures for 1964-1993 from the data used by Harris (1994) on aggregate
smoking prevalence and cigarette consumption. They found consistent evidence
that, although smokers reduced daily cigarette consumption in response to
higher taxes, they also compensated in several ways. In particular, smokers
in high-tax states consumed longer cigarettes and those that are higher in tar
and nicotine, with young adults smokers also most likely to engage in this
compensating behavior. As a result, they argued that the perceived health
benefits associated with higher cigarette taxes are likely to be somewhat
overstated. Given this compensating behavior, Evans and Farrelly suggest that
if cigarette taxes are to be used to reduce the health consequences of
smoking, then taxes based on tar and nicotine content would be appropriate, an
idea first suggested by Harris (1980).
2.2 Addiction models and cigarette demand
The first discussion by an economist of the effects of addiction on
demand can be found in Marshall's (1920) Principles of Economics, where he
Whether a commodity conforms to the law of diminishing or increasing
return, the increase in consumption arising from a fall in price is
gradual; and, further, habits which have once grown up around the use of
a commodity while its price is low are not so quickly abandoned when its
price rises again. (Appendix H, section 3, page 807)
As Phlips (1983) noted, Marshall's statement clearly introduced the three
basic dimensions of addiction (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,
1988) of gradual adaptation (tolerance), irreversibility (withdrawal), and
positive effects of habits (reinforcement) that are used in many of the more
recent formal models of addictive behavior. Until recently, however,
economists have either ignored the addictive nature of goods such as
Economics of Smoking - p. 24
cigarettes when estimating demand or have assumed that behaviors such as
smoking were irrational and could not be analyzed in the rational, constrained
utility maximizing framework of economics.
Many of the most recent studies of cigarette demand explicitly address
the addictive nature of cigarette smoking. Economic models of addiction can
be divided into three basic groups: imperfectly rational models of addictive
behavior, models of myopic addictive behavior, and models of rational
2.2.1 Imperfectly rational addiction models
Elster (1979), McKenzie (1979), Winston (1980), and Schelling (1978,
1980, 1984a, 1984b) best exemplify the economic models of imperfectly rational
addictive behavior. These models generally assume stable but inconsistent
short-run and long-run preferences. This is seen, for example, in Schelling's
(1978) description of a smoker trying to "kick the habit":
Everybody behaves like two people, one who wants clean lungs and long
life and another who adores tobacco.... The two are in a continual
contest for control; the "straight" one often in command most of the
time, but the wayward one needing only to get occasional control to
spoil the other's best laid plan. (p. 290)
Thus, the farsighted personality may enroll in a smoking cessation program,
only to be undone by the shortsighted personality's relapse in a weak moment.
Winston (1980) formally modeled this behavior and described how this contest
between personalities leads to the evolution of what he called "anti-markets,"
which he defined as firms or institutions that individuals will pay to help
them stop consuming.
Strotz (1956) was the first to develop a formal model of such behavior,
describing the constrained utility maximization process as one in which an
individual chooses a future consumption path that maximizes current utility,
but later in life changes this plan "even though his original expectations of
future desires and means of consumption are verified" (p. 165). This
inconsistency between current and future preferences only arises when a nonEconomics
of Smoking - p. 25
exponential discount function is used. 7 Strotz went on to suggest that
rational persons will recognize this inconsistency and plan accordingly, by
pre-committing their future behavior or by modifying consumption plans to be
consistent with future preferences when unable to pre-commit. Pollak (1968)
went one step further, arguing that an individual may behave naively even when
using an exponential discount function. Thaler and Shefrin (1981) described
the problem similarly, referring to an individual at any point in time as both
a "farsighted planner and a myopic doer" (p. 392), with the two in continual
conflict. While these models present interesting discussions of some aspects
of addictive behavior, they have not been applied empirically to cigarette
smoking or other addictions.
2.2.2 Myopic addiction models
The naive behavior described in some of the imperfectly rational models
of addiction is the basis for many of the myopic models of addictive behavior.
As Pollak (1975) observed, behavior is naive in the sense that an individual
recognizes the dependence of current addictive consumption decisions on past
consumption, but then ignores the impact of current and past choices on future
consumption decisions when making current choices. Many of these models
treat preferences as endogenous, allowing tastes to change over time in
response to past consumption (Gorman, 1967; Pollak, 1970, 1976, 1978; von
Weizsacker, 1971; Hammond, 1976a, 1976b; El- Safty, 1976a, 1976b).
These models are similar in spirit to those in which tastes change in
response to factors other than past consumption, including advertising ( Dixit
and Norman, 1978; Galbraith, 1958, 1972) and prices ( Pollak, 1977). Others
allow past consumption to affect current consumption through an accumulated
stock of past consumption (e.g., Houthakker and Taylor, 1966, 1970). These
models are comparable to those of the demand for durable consumer goods that
7 Vuchinich and Simpson (1998) provided an interesting application of this
idea to the demand for alcoholic beverages, comparing behavior under
hyperbolic versus exponential discounting.
Economics of Smoking - p. 26
use a stock adjustment process ( e.g, Chow's (1960) model of the demand for
automobiles, and Garcia dos Santos' (1972) analysis of the demands for
household durables). As Phlips (1983) noted, however, the distinction between
models with endogenous tastes and those with stable preferences within a
household production framework is purely semantic, since the underlying
mathematics of the two are the same.
The earliest theoretical models of demand in the context of myopic
addiction can be traced to the irreversible demand models ( Haavelmo, 1944;
Duesenberry, 1949; Modigliani, 1949; Farrell, 1952). Farrell, for example,
described an irreversible demand function as one in which current demand
depends on all past price and income combinations. As a result, price and
income elasticities are constant, but may differ for increases and decreases
in price and income. Farrell tested this model empirically, using U.K. data
on the demands for tobacco and beer from 1870 through 1938, in a model that
included not only current price and income, but also price, income, and
consumption in the prior year. In general, his estimates were inconclusive,
although he did find limited evidence of habit formation for tobacco use.
The notion of asymmetric responses to price and income reappeared in
Scitovsky (1976) and was applied to cigarette demand by Young (1983) and
Pekurinen (1989), using data from the U.S. and Finland, respectively. Both
found that smoking was almost twice as responsive to price reductions as it
was to price increases, which they interpreted as evidence of addiction.
Most empirical applications of myopic models of addiction are based on
the pioneering work by Houthakker and Taylor (1966, 1970) that formally
introduced the dependence of current consumption on past consumption by
modeling current demand as a function of a "stock of habits" representing the
depreciated sum of all past consumption. Houthakker and Taylor estimated
demand functions for a variety of goods, including cigarettes, using annual
aggregates for the U.S. and several Western European countries. Their
estimates provided considerable support for their hypothesis of habit
Economics of Smoking - p. 27
formation in demand for almost all of the non-durable consumer goods they
examined, including cigarettes.
Mullahy (1985) took a similar approach in his empirical examination of
cigarette demand using individual level data from the 1979 National Health
Interview Survey. In his model, the stock of past cigarette consumption has a
negative impact on the production of commodities such as health and the
satisfaction received from current smoking. Mullahy used a two-part model to
estimate cigarette demand, as well as instrumental variables methods to
account for the unobserved individual heterogeneity likely to be correlated
with the stock of past consumption. Mullahy found strong support for the
hypothesis that cigarette smoking is an addictive behavior, as shown by the
positive and significant estimates he obtained for the addictive stock in both
the smoking participation and conditional demand equations. His estimates for
price are quite similar to those obtained by Lewit and Coate (1982), with the
overall price elasticity of demand centered on -0.47. In addition, Mullahy
estimated that men were more price responsive than women (total price
elasticities of -0.56 and -0.39, respectively). Finally, using an interaction
between the addictive stock and price, Mullahy concluded that more-addicted
smokers (defined as those with a larger addictive stock) were less responsive
to price than their less-addicted counterparts. Other approaches to
estimating myopic demand models have similarly concluded that cigarette
smoking is an addictive behavior and that price has a significant impact on
cigarette demand (e.g. Jones, 1989; Baltagi and Levin, 1986).
2.2.3 Rational addiction models
Several researchers have modeled addiction as a rational behavior. In
this context, rationality simply implies that individuals incorporate the
interdependence between past, current, and future consumption into their
utility maximization process. This is in contrast to the assumption, implicit
in myopic models of addictive behavior, that future implications are ignored
Economics of Smoking - p. 28
when making current decisions. In other words, myopic behavior implies an
infinite discounting of the future, while rational behavior implies that
future implications are considered, while not ruling out a relatively high
discount rate. Several of the rational addiction models, including those of
Lluch (1974), Spinnewyn (1981), and Boyer (1983), assume that tastes are
endogenous. These models build on the significant contributions of Ryder and
Heal (1973), Boyer (1978), and others in the optimal growth literature who
have developed endogenous taste models with rational behavior. Spinnewyn
(1981) and Phlips and Spinnewyn (1982) argued that incorporating rational
decision making into models of habit formation results in models that are
"formally equivalent to models without habit formation" ( Spinnewyn, 1981, p.
92). Thus, they argue, assuming rationality only leads to unnecessary
This assertion was challenged by Pashardes (1986) who derived demand
equations for a rational consumer in which current consumption is determined
by past consumption and current preferences with full knowledge about the
impact of current decisions on the future costs of consumption. Pashardes
found considerable empirical evidence to support the hypothesis of rational
behavior in general, as well as evidence that cigarette smoking is an
addictive behavior. Finally, he noted that expectations concerning the future
price and other costs of consumption played an important role in consumer
Becker and Murphy (1988) similarly rejected the notion that myopic
behavior is empirically indistinguishable from rational behavior in their
theory of rational addiction. They assumed that individuals consistently
maximize utility over their life cycle, taking into account the future
consequences of their choices. In their model, utility at any point in time
depends on current addictive consumption , current non-addictive consumption,
and the stock of past addictive consumption. Tolerance is incorporated by
assuming that the marginal utility of the addictive stock is negative.
Economics of Smoking - p. 29
Reinforcement is modeled by assuming that an increase in the addictive stock
raises the marginal utility of current addictive consumption. Finally
withdrawal is captured since total utility falls with the cessation of
Becker and Murphy (1988) and Becker et al. (1991) developed several
hypotheses from this basic model. First, addictive consumption displays
"adjacent complementarity"; that is, due to reinforcement, the quantities of
the addictive good consumed in different time periods are complements. As a
result, current consumption of an addictive good is inversely related to not
only the current price of the good, but also to all past and future prices.
Consequently, the long-run effect of a permanent change in price will exceed
the short-run effect.8 Moreover, in the Becker and Murphy model, the ratio of
the long-run to short-run price effect rises as the degree of addiction rises.
In addition, they predict that the effect of an anticipated price change will
be greater than the impact of a comparable unanticipated price change, while a
permanent price change will have a larger impact on demand than a temporary
price change. Finally, price responsiveness varies with time preference :
addicts with higher discount rates will be relatively more responsive to
changes in money price than those with lower discount rates. The opposite
will be true with respect to the effects of information concerning the future
consequences of addictive consumption. Thus, the model suggests that younger,
less educated, and lower income persons will be relatively more responsive to
changes in the money price of cigarettes, while older, more educated, and
higher income persons will be relatively more responsive to new information on
the health consequences of cigarette smoking. 9
Strong adjacent complementarity, reflecting strong addiction, can lead
to unstable steady states in the Becker and Murphy model. This is a key
8 Myopic addiction models also predict that the long run price elasticity
of demand will be larger than the short run elasticity.
9 See Chaloupka (1988, 1990, 1992) or Becker et al. (1994) for a more
formal discussion of these price effects.
Economics of Smoking - p. 30
feature of their rational addiction theory, helping to explain the binge
behavior and "cold turkey" quit behavior observed among addicts. Furthermore,
these unstable steady states imply that there will be a bimodal distribution
of consumption, again something that is observed for many addictive goods. In
addition, Becker and Murphy's model implies that temporary events, including
price reductions, peer pressure, or stressful events, can lead to permanent
Chaloupka (1988, 1990, 1991, 1992) used data from the Second National
Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted in the late 1970s in the
first empirical application of the rational addiction model He found
consistent evidence that cigarette smoking was an addictive behavior and that
smokers did not behave myopically. Chaloupka's (1991) estimates of the longrun
price elasticity of demand fell in the range from -0.27 to -0.48, larger
than the elasticities obtained from conventional demand equations using the
same data. In addition to estimating the rational addiction demand equations
for the full sample, Chaloupka also explored the implications of the Becker
and Murphy model with respect to the rate of time preference by estimating
comparable demand equations for subsamples based on age and educational
attainment. Chaloupka's (1991) estimates were generally consistent with the
hypothesis that less educated or younger persons behave more myopically than
their more educated or older counterparts. In addition, less educated persons
were more price responsive, with long-run price elasticities ranging from -
0.57 to -0.62, than were more educated persons, who were generally
unresponsive to price. Chaloupka (1990) also estimated separate demand
equations for subsamples based on gender, concluding that men behaved more
myopically and were relatively responsive to price (long-run price elasticity
centered on -0.60) than women (statistically insignificant effect of price on
Similar findings were obtained by Becker et al. (1994) using aggregate,
state-level sales data for the U.S. over the period from 1955 through 1985.
Economics of Smoking - p. 31
They found clear evidence that smoking was addictive, as well as evidence of
non-myopic, although not fully rational, behavior. 10 Estimates from other
studies employing U.S. data (Keeler et al., 1993; Sung et al., 1994) and data
from other countries, including Finland ( Pekurinen, 1991) and Australia
(Bardsley and Olekalns, 1998), are generally consistent with the hypothesis of
rational addiction. In contrast, Duffy (1996a), Cameron (1997), and Conniffe
(1995), using annual time-series data for the U.K., Greece, and Ireland,
respectively, found little support for the rational addiction model. These
latter studies, however, are generally limited by the relatively small number
of observations available for their analyses, and by the use of several highly
As noted above, Douglas (1998) used hazard models to examine the
determinants of smoking initiation and cessation in the context of the Becker
and Murphy (1988) rational addiction model. In contrast to his finding that
price does not significantly affect the hazard of smoking initiation, Douglas
concluded that increases in price significantly increase the likelihood
(hazard) of smoking cessation. He estimated a price elasticity for the
duration of the smoking habit of -1.07 with respect to future price,
consistent with the hypothesis of rational addiction; paradoxically, past and
current prices were not found to have a statistically significant effect on
cessation. Similarly, his parametric and non-parametric results imply that
the hazard of smoking cessation has a positive duration dependence, a finding
Douglas suggested is consistent with rational addiction in that the rational
smoker will discount future health costs less as they become more imminent.
2.2.4 Critiques of the rational addiction model
While the rational addiction model has gained acceptance among some
economists, many object to several assumptions of the model. Perhaps the most
10 The authors concluded that there was insufficient information in the
data to accurately estimate the discount rate, but that their estimates were
clearly inconsistent with myopic behavior.
Economics of Smoking - p. 32
criticized aspect of the model is the assumption of perfect foresight. As
Winston (1980) explained, in the context of the Stigler and Becker (1977)
[T]he addict looks strange because he sits down at period j=0, surveys
future income, production technologies, investment/addiction functions,
and consumption preferences over his lifetime to period T, maximizes the
discounted value of his expected utility, and decides to be an
alcoholic. That's the way he will get the greatest satisfaction out of
life. Alcoholics are alcoholics because they want to be alcoholics, ex
ante, with full knowledge of its consequences. ( page 302)
Similarly, Akerlof (1991) noted that individuals who become addicted in the
rational addiction model do not regret their past decisions, given that they
are assumed to have been fully aware of the consequences of their consumption
of a potentially addictive good when making those decisions.
A recent theoretical paper by Orphanides and Zervos (1995) addressed
this and other perceived inconsistencies of the rational addiction model that
arise largely from the assumption of perfect foresight. In particular, the
authors introduced uncertainty into the model by assuming that inexperienced
users are not fully aware of the potential harm associated with consuming an
addictive substance. Instead, in their model, an individual's knowledge comes
from the observed effects of the addictive good on others as well as through
his or her own experimentation with that good. More specifically, they assume
that the harmful effects (including addiction) of consuming a potentially
addictive good are not the same for all individuals, that each individual
possesses a subjective understanding of his or her potential to become
addicted, and that this subjective belief is updated via a Bayesian learning
process as the individual consumes the addictive good. Thus, an individual
who underestimates his or her potential for addiction and experiments with an
addictive substance can end up becoming addicted. Rather than the "happy
addicts" implied by the rational addiction model (Winston, 1980), these
addicts will regret becoming addicted. As Orphanides and Zervos noted, the
incorporation of subjective beliefs into the rational addiction model helps
Economics of Smoking - p. 33
explain youthful experimentation, the importance of peer influences, and other
commonly observed facets of addiction.
More recently, in a model focusing on cigarette smoking, Suranovic et
al.(forthcoming) also reconsidered the Becker and Murphy (1988) model of
rational addiction. As described above, adjacent complementarity is a key
feature of the rational addiction model. Suranovic et al. noted, however,
that one implication of adjacent complementarity is that efforts to reduce
current consumption will lead to reductions in utility. These "quitting
costs" are an important feature of their model and help explain the seeming
inconsistency between smokers' stated wishes to quit smoking and their
continued cigarette consumption. In addition, they help explain why smokers
engage in various behavior modification treatments, such as the use of the
nicotine patch, which help make quitting easier.
A second point of departure from the Becker and Murphy model concerns
the timing of the consequences of smoking, which Suranovic et al. assume are
concentrated at the end of a smoker's life. In addition, rather than assuming
that individuals choose a lifetime consumption path that maximizes the present
value of their lifetime utility, Suranovic et al. assume "boundedly rational"
behavior, implying that individuals choose current consumption only. As a
result, their model suggests that aging is enough to induce cessation among
some smokers. As in the Becker and Murphy model, their model implies that
quitting "cold-turkey" is likely in the case of a strong addiction (one where
quitting costs rise rapidly for small reductions in consumption). However, in
contrast to Becker and Murphy, Suranovic et al. predicted gradual reductions
in consumption progressing to quitting in the case of relatively weak
addictions. Interestingly, some newly emerging epidemiologic evidence
supports this prediction (Farkas, 1998).
In addition, as Becker and Mulligan (1997) describe, addic tion and time
preference may be related. As discussed above, the Becker and Murphy (1988)
model of rational addiction implied that people who discount the future more
Economics of Smoking - p. 34
heavily were more likely to become addicted. In their theoretical discussion
on the determination of time preference, Becker and Mulligan suggest that
addictive consumption, by raising current utility at the expense of future
utility, can make even rational persons behave more myopically.
Finally, Showalter (1998), in his analysis of the behavior of firms
producing an addictive good, suggests an alternative interpretation for the
finding in most empirical applications of the rational addiction model that
future consumption has a significant impact on current consumption. Rather
than resulting from rational behavior on the part of consumers, Showalter
shows that the same finding could result from myopic behavior by consumers
coupled with rational behavior by firms. In his empirical applications of
this model, Showalter finds that the rational and myopic demand models produce
similar predictions, but that neither does well in predicting actual behavior,
a finding he attributes to the difficulties of accurately forecasting prices.
2.3 Behavioral economic analyses of cigarette demand
Behavioral economics involves the application of the principles of
consumer demand theory to experimental psychology ( Hursh and Bauman, 1987).
Over the past decade, there have been numerous behavioral economic analyses of
a variety of addictive behaviors, including cigarette smoking ( Bickel and
DeGrandpre, 1996). These studies examine the impact of price and other
factors on the self-administration of a number of addictive substances by
humans as well as a variety of non-human species in a laboratory setting.
Price, in this context, is defined as the response or effort required to
receive one dose of a drug (Bickel et al., 1993). As in standard economic
analyses, an increase in price is expected to lead to a reduction in the
quantity of drug demanded. One advantage of this experimental approach for
the analysis of cigarette demand, both in general and as it relates to policy
debates specifically, is that it allows researchers to study the effects on
demand of changes in cigarette prices that are many times larger than the
Economics of Smoking - p. 35
price differences that are observed in the cross-sectional or time-series data
that have been used in the econometric studies of demand. One limitation of
the approach, however, is that these methods are generally applicable only to
dependent individuals. For example, for ethical reasons (and others), they
cannot be used to address issues related to the effect of price on smoking
The behavioral economics of cigarette smoking is the most extensively
researched area in the behavioral economics of drug abuse ( Bickel and Madden,
1998). In a series of papers, Bickel, DeGrandpre, and their colleagues have
reported the results of research on cigarette smoking conducted in their
behavioral economics laboratory ( Bickel et al., 1991; DeGrandpre et al., 1992;
DeGranpre et al., 1994; Bickel et al., 1995; DeGrandpre and Bickel, 1995;
Bickel and DeGrandpre, 1996; Bickel and Madden, 1998). These experiments
typically involve individuals ages 18 and older who smoke a pack or more of
cigarettes per day who participate in between two and five three-hour
experimental sessions per week. 11 Price, in these experiments, is defined as
the number of complete pulls and resets of a plunger required to receive a
preset number of puffs on a cigarette. For example, 50 pulls on the plunger
may be required to obtain two puffs on a cigarette. Puffs are monitored by a
puff-volume sensor so that each subject receives essentially the same dose per
puff (Bickel and Madden, 1998).
A wide range of prices is used in the se experiments. In some of the
experiments, respondents were also presented with an opportunity to earn money
for pulls on the plunger that could then be spent on cigarettes. As in the
econometric studies described above, the behavioral economic analyses have
consistently found an inverse relationship between cigarette smoking and
price. Estimates of the price elasticity of demand obtained from these
studies are surprisingly consistent with those obtained from econometric
11 For a discussion of a number of other requirements for the
participants and more detail on the features of these experiments, see Bickel
and Madden (1998).
Economics of Smoking - p. 36
studies. For example, Bickel et al. (1995) estimated a mean price elasticity
of demand of -0.56 for five subjects in an experiment in which price ranged
from 12 to 1600 pulls per puff. A particularly interesting finding from the
behavioral economics research is that the price elasticity of demand rises as
price rises. For example, DeGrandpre and Bickel (1995) estimated a mean price
elasticity of -1.58 for prices ranging from 400 to 4500 pulls per puff. These
findings appear to be generalizable not only across drugs but also across
species (Bickel et al., 1990).
2.4 Econometric studies of the demand for other tobacco products
In contrast to the relatively large literature examining the impact of
cigarette prices on cigarette smoking, few studies look at the effects of
price on the use of other tobacco products, and fewer still consider crossprice
effects for cigarettes and other tobacco products. Much of this
research has been conducted by Ohsfeldt and his colleagues (Ohsfeldt and
Boyle, 1994; Ohsfeldt et al., 1997, 1998). Using state-level aggregates
constructed from the September 1985 tobacco use supplement to the Current
Population Survey, Ohsfeldt and Boyle (1994) examined the impact of state
smokeless tobacco taxes and cigarette excise taxes on the prevalence of
smokeless tobacco use by males ages 16 years and older. The authors concluded
that higher smokeless tobacco taxes would significantly reduce the prevalence
of smokeless tobacco use. In addition, Ohsfeldt and Boyle found evidence of
substitution among tobacco products, in that higher cigarette excise taxes
have a positive and significant effect on the prevalence of smokeless tobacco
use. Given this finding, they suggested that the increase in smokeless
tobacco use observed among young males in the 1980s was at least in part due
to the increases in state cigarette taxes which were rising more rapidly
during this time than state taxes on other tobacco products.
Similarly, Thompson and McLeod (1976) and Pekurinen (1989, 1991)
concluded that some Canadian and Finnish cigarette smokers, respectively,
Economics of Smoking - p. 37
would switch from manufactured cigarettes to less expensive hand-rolled
cigarettes in response to increases in the prices of manufactured cigarettes.
Pekurinen also found a negative and significant relationship between the
demands for pipe tobacco and cigars and their own-prices. Leu (1984),
however, found little evidence of substitution among tobacco products by Swiss
tobacco users in response to changes in their relative prices.
The findings obtained by Ohsfeldt and Boyle based on aggregate data are
confirmed by their subsequent analyses using individual-level data from the
September 1985 CPS (Ohsfeldt et al., 1997) and the September 1992, January
1993, and May 1993 CPS (Ohsfeldt et al., 1998). In the more recent analysis,
the authors estimated an own-tax elasticity for smokeless tobacco use of -0.10
for their sample of males ages 16 and older and again concluded that smokeless
tobacco products are substitutes for cigarettes. In addition, as seen for
cigarette demand, they estimated an inverse relationship between the
elasticity of demand for smokeless tobacco products and age.
This finding was confirmed by Chaloupka et al.'s (1997) recent analysis
of smokeless tobacco use among young males using data from the 1992, 1993, and
1994 Monitoring the Future surveys of eighth, tenth, and twelfth grade
students. The researchers estimated an overall price elasticity of young
males' smokeless tobacco use of -0.746, and a participation elasticity of -
3. Cigarette and other tobacco taxation12
With retail price an important determinant of the demand for cigarettes,
and excise tax often a significant component of retail cigarette price, the
issue of whether to increase cigarette excise taxes has been highly visible in
legislative debates on both governmental revenue raising and tobacco control
12 As most of the evidence and concern pertaining to tobacco taxation
relates to cigarette excise taxation, we refer specifically to cigarette
taxation in most of the discussion in this section. However, we do present
the evidence pertaining to the taxation of other tobacco products where it
Economics of Smoking - p. 38
for decades. Cigarette excise taxation offers an unusual attraction for
legislators: given the evidence on demand elasticities, increases in cigarette
taxes of politically plausible magnitude will produce a public health benefit,
by discouraging smoking, particularly among children. At the same time, they
will generate additional revenues for the governmental unit in question,
typically at a fairly low administrative cost. Further, polls often find
support for cigarette excise increases among American voters, frequently even
Still, the prospect of increased taxation raises a myriad of complicated
philosophical and practical questions. Among the former are the following:
What is the "right" level of cigarette taxation, if any? What is the basis
for determining that it is "right"? Are cigarette taxes fair, given their
distributional burdens in terms of both vertical and horizontal equity? In
particular, since more low-income than high-income people smoke (in developed
countries), will increased cigarette taxes impose an unfair regressive burden
on low-income taxpayers? What are the proper trade- offs between the interests
of individuals (liberty interests, tax burden) and the societal interest in
the public's health? Practical questions include the following: Given the
oligopolistic nature of the cigarette industry, as well as estimated supply
and demand elasticities, how will taxation affect cigarette price? With
differences in tax rates by jurisdiction defining much of the difference in
prices across borders of states and nations, will a given increase in excise
tax in a relatively high-tax jurisdiction result in a significant amount of
smuggling from a neighboring low-tax jurisdiction? What are the revenue
implications of a tax increase of given magnitude? How will a given taxinduced
price increase influence smoking, and consequently, what impacts will
it have on the public's health?
Economists have made numerous impo rtant conceptual and empirical
contributions to the policy debate on cigarette taxation, primarily, although
not exclusively, through their evaluation of the relationship between
Economics of Smoking - p. 39
cigarette price and consumption, reviewed in the preceding section. In this
section, we review economists' contributions to better understanding the
rationale for (or against), and additional effects of, cigarette excise
3.1 Comparative standards and the effects of tax on price
3.1.1 Purposes and methods of taxation
Cigarettes and other tobacco products have been taxed for centuries,
primarily because the relatively inelastic demand for these products makes
them an easy source of revenues. In the U.S., for example, tobacco has been
taxed since colonial times, rising with revenue needs and declining during
more prosperous times. Since the Civil War, tobacco taxes have remained a
part of the U.S. federal tax system, often increasing during wartime and
falling again in peacetime. Similar historical patterns are observed in many
other developed countries. However, the importance of tobacco taxes as a
share of total revenues has generally declined over time in most countries.
In the U.S. for example, tobacco taxes currently account for less than onehalf
of one percent of total federal revenues, down from 3.36 percent of
revenues in 1950.
In recent decades, the increased taxation of cigarettes and other
tobacco products has been motivated not only by the revenue generating
potential of these taxes, but also as a means to reduce cigarette consumption.
Warner (1981b) concluded that the information on the health consequences of
cigarette smoking that began appearing in the 1950s and early 1960s led a
number of states to increase cigarette taxes as a way of discouraging
cigarette demand. More recently, a number of countries have adopted or
considered large tax increases on cigarettes and other tobacco products as a
way to reduce consumption. In Canada, for example, steady federal and
provincial tobacco tax increases throughout the 1980s and early-1990s were
motivated in part by concerns over the health consequences of smoking.
Economics of Smoking - p. 40
Similar concerns were behind the recent large increases in cigarette taxes in
California, Massachusetts, Arizona, Oregon, and other U.S. states.
Large tax increases can generate both significant declines in cigarette
smoking as well as considerable increases in cigarette tax revenues. In
Canada, for example, the over 500 percent increase in taxes between 1982 and
1992 led to an increase in real cigarette prices of 170 percent, reducing
total cigarette smoking by 38 percent ( Sweanor and Martial, 1994). Total
federal and provincial cigarette tax revenues rose by 240 percent during this
period, even with the development of a significant black market in cigarettes.
Cigarettes and other tobacco products are taxed in a variety of ways.
The most commonly used methods of taxation include excise taxes, value added
and other ad-valorem taxes, and import duties. Most cigarette excise taxes
are specified as an amount per x number of cigarettes (e.g., the U.S., Canada,
and many others), while others are based on the weight of tobacco contained in
the cigarette (e.g., Australia and Malaysia). Similarly, there are a variety
of ad-valorem taxes, including the value added taxes imposed by most European
and many other countries, as well as the sales taxes applied in most U.S.
states and elsewhere. There are comparable differences in the types of import
duties applied by nearly all countries to tobacco products. Some of the
distinctive features of these taxes include: earmarking for tobacco-related
education, counter-advertising, and other health related activities (e.g.,
Finland, Denmark, Peru, Romania, Nepal, and several U.S. states); the use of
tax revenues to create the state-run Health Promotion Foundations in several
Australian states and the Health Sponsorship Council in New Zealand, to fund
sporting and artistic events previously backed by the tobacco industry; and
the differential taxes on cigarettes with high tar and nicotine content used
in previous years in the U.K. (WHO, 1997; Roemer, 1993).
3.1.2 Effects of taxes on retail price
Increases in cigarette and other tobacco taxes result in higher prices
Economics of Smoking - p. 41
for these products. When excise taxation is the primary form of tobacco
taxation, however, the real value of the tax will fall over time, unless
regularly increased to account for inflation. Given that taxes are an
important component of price, one consequence of an excise tax system for
tobacco products with relatively infrequent tax increases is that the real
price of these products will fall over time as the prices of other goods and
services increase more rapidly. In the U.S., for example, due to the relative
stability of federal and state cigarette excise taxes throughout the 1970s,
real cigarette prices fell by nearly 40 percent. Between 1981 and 1996,
however, real cigarette prices in the U.S. rose by over 65 percent, due in
part to the tripling of the federal cigarette excise tax and numerous state
tax increases.13 In contrast, the real value of an ad- valorem tax on tobacco
products is maintained when the prices of these products rise with the prices
of other goods and services.
The oligopolistic nature of the cigarette industry and the addictive
nature of cigarette demand have important implications for the effects of
cigarette tax increases on cigarette prices. In a perfectly competitive
market with constant long-run costs of production, any tax increase would be
fully passed on to consumers. At the other extreme, a monopolist would share
the burden of the tax increase with consumers, with consumers bearing
relatively more of the burden when demand is relatively inelastic. In most
developed countries, the cigarette industry, however, is clearly at neither
extreme, but is instead an oligopoly. In the U.S., for example, the five
leading cigarette producers accounted for virtually the entire cigarette
market, with the top three (Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds, and Brown &
Williamson) controlling over 90 percent of the market (Federal Trade
Commission, 1997). In some countries, however, particularly developing
13 Increases in the non-tax component of price, however, account for most
of the rise in U.S. cigarette prices between 1981 and 1996. During this
period, cigarette taxes as a percentage of price fell from just over one-third
to under one-quarter.
Economics of Smoking - p. 42
countries, a domestic monopoly controls most of the market.
Most of the empirical analyses of the relationship between cigarette
taxes and prices are based on data from the U.S. Early studies produced
generally inconsistent findings ( Barzel, 1976; Johnson, 1978; Sumner, 1981;
Sumner and Ward, 1981; Bulow and Pfleiderer, 1983; Bishop and Yoo, 1985;
Sullivan, 1985; Sumner and Wohlgenant, 1985; Ashenfelter and Sullivan, 1987).
One general weakness of these studies is that they failed to account for the
dynamic interaction of firms in an oligopolistic industry. Instead, they
generally assumed that the rules for firm behavior were established and then
worked backwards to estimate the degree of competition in the industry
More recent studies have attempted to model the dynamic nature of an
oligopolistic industry when estimating the impact of cigarette taxes on
cigarette prices. Harris (1987) used data on wholesale and retail cigarette
prices as well as manufacturing costs to estimate the change in cigarette
prices that resulted from the doubling of the U.S. federal cigarette tax in
1983. He concluded that the eight-cent tax increase led to a 17-cent price
increase that was not explained by increased manufacturing costs. Instead,
Harris argued that the scheduled tax increase served as a mechanism for a
coordinated, oligopolistic price increase.
Barnett and his colleagues (1995) not ed that Harris' analysis did not
fully account for underlying trends in cigarette prices. Consequently, they
argued that Harris attributed too much of the increase in price to the
increase in the tax since the upward trend in cigarette prices predated the
debate over the federal tax increase. Instead, they argued that the
introduction of generic cigarettes in 1981 allowed cigarette producers to
engage in coordinated increases in the prices of premium cigarettes since the
generic cigarettes would keep more price-sensitive smokers in the market.
Keeler and his colleagues (Keeler et al., 1996; Barnett et al., 1995;
Sung et al., 1994) used national and state level data in empirical analyses of
Economics of Smoking - p. 43
the effects of tax increases on price. Their models account for the
interaction of supply and demand, the oligopolistic nature of the cigarette
industry, and, in some, the addictive nature of cigarette demand. Using
annual state-level data for the period from 1960 through 1990, Keeler et al.
(1996) estimated that a one-cent increase in a state's cigarette tax would
raise retail prices in that state by 1.11 cents. In addition, they estimated
that increases in federal cigarette taxes would generate larger increases in
cigarette prices than those resulting from state tax hikes (Barnett et al.,
1995). They attributed this finding to the potential of cross-border shopping
for cigarettes in response to a state tax increase. Finally, Keeler et al.
(1996) concluded that cigarette producers price discriminate by state, in that
stronger state and local anti-smoking laws are offset by lower prices.
However, they noted that the effect of price discrimination is not large
relative to retail cigarette prices.
Based on the Becker and Murphy (1988) rational addiction model, Becke r
et al. (1994) suggested an alternative explanation for the finding that
cigarette prices increase by more than cigarette taxes when taxes are raised.
They argued that when taxes are raised, cigarette companies will raise price
by more to obtain maximum profit from current, addicted smokers. These
increased current profits help offset the future losses from the reduced
smoking initiation resulting from the price increase. Becker and his
colleagues explained this apparent paradox as follows: "If smokers are
addicted and if the industry is oligopolistic, an expected rise in future
taxes and hence in future prices induces a rise in current prices even though
current demand falls when future prices are expected to increase" (page 413).
They went on to explain that because of the addictive nature of smoking,
cigarette producers set prices below their short-run profit maximizing level
in order to "hook" consumers on their addictive product, thus raising the
future demand for this product. Showalter (1998) makes a similar argument
with respect to advertising, suggesting that cigarette producers might engage
Economics of Smoking - p. 44
in apparently excessive advertising in order to attract a few new customers.
3.1.3 Variations in cigarette tax across countries and states and the issue of
The share of cigarette taxes in cigarette prices varies widely among
countries. In Denmark, Ireland, and the U.K., for example, over 80 percent of
cigarette prices are accounted for by cigarette taxes ( Sweanor, 1997), while
taxes in most others were between 65 and 80 percent. 14 In contrast, among
developed countries, cigarette taxes are less than half of price only in the
U.S., where they account for 35 percent of price, on average (21 percent in
the lowest taxing state and 47 percent in the highest). The large difference
in cigarette taxes leads to a five-fold difference in cigarette prices among
these countries. As the WHO (1997) has observed, inter-country differences in
wages and prices can understate the difference in price when expressed in a
single currency. When expressed in terms of minutes of labor required to earn
the price of a pack of cigarettes, the differences are even larger.
One consequence of the differences in cigarette taxes and prices, both
across countries as well as among different taxing jurisdictions within
countries, is the potential for casual and organized cigarette smuggling and
other forms of tax evasion. The cigarette industry, for example, frequently
argues that cigarette tax increases will actually lead to reductions in tax
revenues due to smuggling and other tax evasion (British American Tobacco,
1994). The smuggling problem is exacerbated by the relative ease with which
tobacco products can be transported, the potential profits from this illegal
activity, the presence of an informal distribution network in many countries,
the availability of tax-free and duty-free cigarettes, and nonexistent or
relatively weak policies concerning cigarette smuggling and their lack of
enforcement (Joossens and van der Merwe, 1997; Joossens and Raw, 1995, 1998;
Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (ACIR), 1977 and 1985).
14 Based on prices and taxes as of December 31, 1996.
Economics of Smoking - p. 45
Joosens and Raw (1995, 1998) argued that many of these other factors can be as
important as price differences in spawning cigarette smuggling. For example,
they noted that there is little evidence of cigarette smuggling in some of the
highest priced European countries, including France, Norway, Sweden and the
U.K., while there is extensive evidence of smuggling in those with relatively
low prices, such as Spain and Italy. Moreover, they concluded that much of
the cigarette smuggling that does occur in Europe and elsewhere is actually
encouraged by the large, multinational tobacco companies. Thursby and Thursby
(1994) provided empirical support for this argument, based on their analysis
of data from the U.S. from which they concluded that increases in federal
cigarette excise taxes lead to increased commercial cigarette smuggling.
There have been relatively few econometric analyses of the impact o f
price differentials on organized and casual cigarette smuggling. All of these
studies are based on annual state-level cigarette sales data from the U.S. and
all have concluded that the casual and organized smuggling of cigarettes from
major tobacco producing states, as well as other states with relatively low
cigarette prices compared to neighboring states, accounts for a significant
share of sales in these states (Saba et al., 1995; Becker et al., 1994;
Chaloupka and Saffer, 1992; Baltagi and Levin, 1986; ACIR, 1977, 1985;
Perhaps the most widely cited example of the link between cigarette tax
increases and smuggling is the Canadian experience during the late-1980s and
early-1990s. In 1980, when Canada adopted an ad-valorem approach to cigarette
taxation, Canadian cigarette prices were somewhat higher than prices in the
U.S. By 1984, the gap had widened as Canadian cigarette taxes doubled and
real cigarette prices rose by 25 percent. In 1984, in response to industry
pressure, the ad-valorem tax was replaced by an excise tax. Over the next few
years, growth in Canadian cigarette taxes slowed, with most tax increases
taking place at the provincial level. In 1988, however, the federal
government mounted an aggressive anti-smoking campaign that included
Economics of Smoking - p. 46
significant tax increases. In 1989, the federal tax was raised by two cents
per cigarette, followed by a three cents per cigarette increase in 1991;
provincial taxes continued to increase as well. By early 1994, the average
Canadian tax per pack was $2.96 (in U.S. dollars), more than five times the
U.S. average (Sweanor and Martial, 1994).
The large tax and price disparities between the U.S. and Canada led to
substantial cigarette smuggling from the U.S. Smuggling was a relatively
minor problem prior to 1992; however, beginning in 1992, smuggling rapidly
increased after the repeal of a Canadian tax on cigarette exports. In
addition, the smuggling problem was exacerbated by the long undefended border
between the U.S. and Canada, relatively weak border controls, and the high
concentration of the Canadian population near U.S. borders (Sweanor and
Martial, 1994). Much of the black market trade was in cigarettes originally
produced in Canada, exported to the U.S. tax-free, and then smuggled back into
Canada; relatively little involved U.S. produced cigarettes given their use of
a blend of tobacco different from that preferred by Canadian smokers.
In response to an aggressive industry-sponsored campaign, the Canadian
federal cigarette tax was reduced by $5.00 per carton on February 9, 1994,
with an agreement to match provincial tax reductions of up to another $10.00
per carton. Quebec quickly lowered its provincial tax by $11.00 per carton,
for a total tax cut of $26.00 per carton, cutting cigarette prices in half.
Several other provinces followed and by the end of 1996, the average tax per
pack was less than $2.00. Canadian tax revenues fell and rates of smoking
increased, particularly among youth.
The variations in taxes across countrie s and within countries over time
reflect a myriad of practical and political considerations, with smuggling but
one of them. In contrast to the legislators who must set taxes based on such
considerations, academic economists approach the issue of the desirable level
of cigarette taxation by contemplating the application of a number of economic
principles relating to both equity and efficiency. The remainder of section 3
Economics of Smoking - p. 47
examines these principles and their relevance to the determination of a
theoretically optimal cigarette excise tax. The discussion also compares and
contrasts the perspective of the economist with that of the public health
professional, for whom different criteria define "optimality" in cigarette
3.2 Fairness standards
The search for an optimal tax encompasses considerations of efficiency
and equity. Each of these domains has featured prominently in policy debates
on increasing cigarette taxes as well. From an efficiency point of view, the
principal economic theory argument favoring imposition of a product-specific
(excise) tax relates to the creation of negative externalities through
production or consumption of the product. The nature and extent of such
externalities with regard to smoking have been the subject of considerable
debate among economists, as is discussed later in this section. 1516
15 Less frequently debated is a pragmatic consideration: whether
cigarette taxation violates the Ramsey Rule, namely that when dealing with
consumption taxes, tax rates should vary inversely with the elasticity of
demand for products (holding supply elasticity constant). The purpose is to
ensure that revenue-raising occurs in a manner that will minimize distortions
in consumers' choices among goods and services and in their decisions of how
much to spend and how much to save. Until recently, the empirical evidence
has suggested that cigarettes are an excellent target for taxation, consistent
with the Ramsey Rule, given the consensus view on their relatively low demand
elasticities, discussed in the preceding section. Jones and Posnett (1988)
estimated that a 1% increase in the cigarette tax rate would generate about a
0.9% increase in revenue. As noted in the preceding section, however, longrun
demand elasticities may be as much as twice short-run elasticities, as
reflected in the findings associated with application of the rational
addiction model to cigarette smoking (Becker et al., 1994). Use of these
greater long-run elasticities would suggest a lower level of tax efficiency.
16 The issues raised in this discussion would apply also to many other
behaviors and consumption goods, such as consuming large quantities of fat (a
risk factor for heart disease and cancer) or driving motorcycles (a risk
factor for serious injury). Despite the logical parallels, few economists or
public health professionals have advocated a fat tax or a special injuryrelated
tax on motorcycles. Cigarettes (and alcohol; see the chapter by Cook
and Moore) have been identified as unique in terms of the magnitude of the
health damage and negative externalities they create. The "slippery slope"
argument -- once negative externalities are used to justify taxing tobacco and
alcohol, cars will be next, then fat, then salt, etc. -- is not addressed in
Economics of Smoking - p. 48
First, however, we examine a central issue in cigarette taxation, namely
whether it violates widely accepted standards of fairness, with an emphasis on
vertical equity. In developed countries such as the U.S., proportionately
more lower-income people smoke than do those with high incomes. As a
consequence, the burden of a tax on cigarettes is experienced
disproportionately by the poor. The tax is criticized as being highly
3.2.1 Horizontal and vertical equity
In terms of tax policy, the principle of horizontal equity is that
equals should be treated equally. Clearly, cigarette taxation violates this
principle, if one accepts that people who are identical except for their
smoking behavior should be deemed "equals." Arguments in favor of cigarette
taxation thus ignore this principle, while opponents of taxation appeal
directly to it (although rarely in the language of economists). Violation of
the horizontal equity principle has never been the focal point of critics'
concern, however. Rather, they have focused on questions of vertical equity,
specifically the apparent regressivity of cigarette taxes. Cigarette taxes
would be regressive with respect to income if poorer and more affluent
consumers smoked at the same rate. The potential problem of regressivity is
exacerbated, in many developed countries at least, by the above-mentioned
tendency for smoking prevalence to be inversely related to income.
Recent empirical analysis has muted this concern somewhat, concluding
that the degree of regressivity is substantially less than appears at face
value. Using data from the 1984-85 Consumer Expenditure Survey, analysts at
the Congressional Budget Office (1990) found that expenditures on tobacco
products increased with income, except for those in the highest income
quintile. In part this reflects an increasing intensity of smoking (numbers
of cigarettes) among smokers as income rises, and a propensity for higherincome
smokers to buy products that are more expensive per unit. As a
Economics of Smoking - p. 49
percentage of post-tax income, however, tobacco spending varied inversely with
income level, with the lowest quintile spending 4% on tobacco.
When the CBO analysts examined tobacco spending as a per centage of
expenditures on all good and services, however, they found that the share of
tobacco expenditures fell gradually over the first four income quintiles (from
1.6 to 1.1%) and dropped sharply in the top quintile (to 0.7%). Consequently,
CBO concluded, if annual family expenditures are more reflective of lifetime
income than annual family income, then tobacco expenditures are only slightly
regressive over income classes. CBO also noted that younger families spend a
higher proportion of their income on tobacco and that their share of tobacco
spending as a percentage of total expenditures was higher as well.
To examine the distributional impact of a cigarette excise tax increase,
CBO simulated the effects of doubling the then (1990) 16-cent federal per pack
excise tax. When income tax brackets and transfer payments were indexed to
account for the price increases associated with the excise tax increase, the
apparent regressivity was reversed; the adjustments had the effect of lowering
individual income taxes and raising transfer payments. Relative to
expenditures, CBO found the burden of the increased tax to be closer to
proportional than regressive. The largest share of the simulated tax increase
was paid for by families in the third and fourth income quintiles, with the
smallest share borne by families in the two lowest quintiles (first and
To control for the intertemporal nature of cigarette smoking, Lyon and
Schwab (1995) examined the distributional effects of cigarette (and other
"sin") taxes across measures of permanent or lifetime income. The authors did
not find important differences in regressivity patterns compared to studies
based on current income.
Recent research on differences in the price elasticity of demand for
cigarettes by various measures of socioeconomic status has produced findings
that suggest that the degree of regressivity normally attributed to cigarette
Economics of Smoking - p. 50
taxation is considerably overstated. Townsend and colleagues (1994) found
that (the absolute value) of price elasticity was inversely related to social
class in Great Britain, with members of the highest social class exhibiting
little price responsiveness and those in the lowest social class having an
elasticity close to unity. In the U.S., Chaloupka (1991) concluded that lesseducated
persons were more price responsive than the more-educated, while
Farrelly and his colleagues (1998) found that cigarette demand by lower income
persons was more elastic than that by higher income persons. Given the high
correlation between income and both social class in Great Britain and
education in the U.S., these studies indicate that increased cigarette taxes
would reduce observed differences in smoking among socioeconomic groups. This
mitigates conclusions about regressivity that derive from analyses that have
failed to consider the inverse relationship between elasticity and income.
The latter has characterized all studies to date.
Regardless of whether regressivity proves to be a serious concern or not
with regard to cigarette taxation per se, analysts have pointed out that the
goal of tax policy is for the overall impact of a tax and expenditure system
to be progressive or proportional, rather than regressive (Congressional
Budget Office, 1990; Warner et al., 1995). Related to this notion, various
proposals to increase cigarette taxes have earmarked a portion of revenues to
expenditures designed to aid the poorer members of society. These have ranged
from smoking-specific expenditures (e.g., provision of smoking cessation
services for the poor) to proposals to fund health care for the poor in part
with cigarette tax revenues.
3.2.2 The benefit principle
Another perspective on fairness is that smokers should bear the costs of
smoking that they impose on other members of the society. This consists of
two categories of costs: those associated with diseases experienced by
nonsmokers due to exposure to environmental tobacco smoke; and smokers' own
Economics of Smoking - p. 51
publicly-funded medical costs subsidized by nonsmoking taxpayers. Related to
the latter, excise taxation might be partially justified on the basis of the
benefit principle, the notion that people who derive benefits from government
activities should be taxed to cover their costs of production.
In the most direct application of this " user fee" concept, proponents
argue that smokers should pay, through cigarette taxes, for the publiclyfunded
health care that smoking necessitates, primarily in the U.S. through
the Medicaid program for the indigent and the Medicare program for the
elderly. Although appealing at first blush, the logic underlying this
argument can be challenged. First, the tax is a blunt instrument: many
smokers who incur smoking-related health care expenditures will pay for them
themselves, either out of pocket or through private health insurance. Why
should they subsidize the health care costs of other smokers more than do
nonsmokers? Similarly, many of today's smokers, who pay the excise taxes,
will cease smoking in time to avoid smoking-related illnesses. Further, the
costs that today's generation of smokers will experience in the future are not
easily predicted; perhaps some currently expensive smoking-related disease
conditions will be readily and inexpensively treatable in the future. Even if
these costs were knowable, they would need to be discounted to reflect the
fact that they will not occur, on average, for two or more decades. As it has
been advanced to date, the "user fee" argument has today's smokers paying for
today's smoking-related health care costs (Warner et al., 1995).
In the case of smoking, the benefit principle is inextricably linked to
the broader issue of the negative externalities associated with smoking. We
consider the evidence pertaining to externalities below. First, however, we
turn to fairness arguments in favor of increasing cigarette taxes that emanate
from the public health community. Economists' analyses of the external costs
of smoking are highly relevant to informing the public health community's
sense of the social costs of smoking.
Economics of Smoking - p. 52
3.3 Public health standards
The public health community has advocated large increases in tobacco
taxes for two reasons. One is the notion that smokers should cover the social
costs of smoking, with the public health conception of social costs including
both private costs to smokers and their families, as well as negative
externalities (Cook, 1991). The second is based on a pragmatic realization:
through its effects on prices, taxation will discourage many people from
smoking, particularly young people. As a consequence, literally hundreds of
thousands of premature deaths could be avoided by large increases in cigarette
taxes. In this context, cigarette taxation is viewed as a powerful policy
tool with which to foster improvements in the public's health.
3.3.1 The social cost of smoking
The public health community has long argued that smoking imposes large
costs on society and that smokers should bear the burden of these costs.
Cost-of-smoking analyses include three categories of costs: ( i) the direct
medical costs of preventing, diagnosing, and treating smoking-related
diseases; (ii) the indirect morbidity costs associated with lost earnings from
work attributable to smoking;17 and (iii) the indirect mortality costs related
to the loss of future earnings due to premature smoking-produced deaths.
Combined, these total well over $100 billion in the U.S. 18 Although most of
the cost-of-smoking analysis has employed American data, estimates have also
been prepared for Canada (Forbes and Thompson, 1983; Collishaw and Myers,
1984), Great Britain [ref], China ( Jin et al., 1995), and other countries. In
addition, numerous state-specific analyses have been performed in the U.S.,
17 A significant amount of work loss is associated with smoking (U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services, 1989). In addition, smoking may
decrease productivity while smokers are on the job , due primarily to the
number and length of smoking breaks they take. The latter is rarely included
in studies of the social costs of smoking, although it has been raised during
debates on indoor smoking restriction legislation.
18 Authors' calculations, updating estimates in Bartlett et al. (1994) and
Miller et al. (1998) to contemporary dollars.
Economics of Smoking - p. 53
most based on the SAMMEC model (Smoking-Attributable Morbidity, Mortality, and
Economic Costs) (Shultz et al., 1991).
The cost-of-smoking studies have employed a variety of methods of
estimating the different cost components, with attributable-risk methodology
common in estimating smoking-related disease incidence or prevalence and the
human capital approach employed in placing a value on lost years of life
(Hodgson and Meiners, 1982; Warner et al., 1998). Following a trend in costof-
illness estimation in general, more recent studies have adopted an
incidence approach (Manning et al., 1989, 1991; Hay, 1991; Hodgson, 1988,
1992; Oster et al., 1984), in contrast with the prevalence approach
predominant in the earlier studies (e.g., Rice et al., 1986). The prevalence
approach values the present costs associated with all existing cases of
smoking-produced illness (including future lost earnings attributable to
current deaths). In contrast, the incidence approach values all of the future
costs associated with new cases of smoking-produced disease during the
reference year. The former provides an estimate of the current economic
burden of smoking, while the latter is more useful for analyses of
interventions that might interrupt the development of smoking-related illness.
The cost-of-smoking studies can be faulted on numerous grounds. For
one, they have tended to omit certain categories of smoking-related health
care, such as treatment of burn victims from smoking-ignited fires 19 and
perinatal care for low-birth-weight babies of smoking mothers (U.S. Department
of Health and Human Services, 1998). Few studies have considered the costs of
treatment of diseases caused by environmental tobacco smoking. No study has
yet attempted to value intangible costs, such as the pain and suffering of
smoking-related disease victims and their families. Ironically, these
intangible costs may well dominate all of those that are more readily
quantified (Abt, 1975).
19 Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of home fires and the leading
cause of burn deaths (Napier, 1996).
Economics of Smoking - p. 54
Hodgson (1998) and his colleagues (Warner et al., 1998) have argued
that, as it is being applied in this literature, the conventional attributable
risk methodology considerably underestimates smoking's burden on the health
care system by virtue of its failure to consider how smoking complicates the
course of many illnesses not themselves directly associated with smoking. For
example, diabetics who smoke often have more complications of their diabetes
than diabetics who do not smoke . Smokers recover more slowly from surgeries
of all types than do nonsmokers, thus extending post-surgical hospital stays.
HIV-infected smokers may be more likely to develop near-term AIDS than are
HIV-infected nonsmokers (Napier, 1996). Inclusion of such costs in cost-ofsmoking
analysis might lead to an increase in estimates of 50% or more.
The cost-of-smoking studies also fail to take account of a wide variety
of direct costs in addition to medical costs, including such items as the time
and transportation costs associated with getting patients to and through
health care services, the direct costs of home modifications to accommodate
smoking-related disabilities, damage to buildings due to smoking-produced
fires, smoking-related maintenance costs in industrial settings and homes, and
the increased frequency of laundering necessitated by smoking. Omission of
these nonmedical costs is standard practice in nearly all of the broader costof-
illness literature. Occasionally, such omissions are acknowledged, with
the researchers stating that they did not view such costs as large enough to
warrant the additional research.
The indirect morbidity and mortality costs hav e been criticized
frequently as representing an inadequate means of valuing the avoidable
premature loss of life. By relying exclusively on the human capital approach,
they place no value on life per se, clearly contrary to the behavior of
virtually all civilized societies which invest in preserving the health of
senior citizens after they retire. Many analysts concur that use of
willingness-to-pay measures would be preferable, but they bemoan the lack of
suitable instruments for assessing such values.
Economics of Smoking - p. 55
The cost-of-smoking analytical community includes individuals who have
calculated some of the economic "benefits" of smoking, including the reduction
in Social Security payments for smokers who die prematurely ( Shoven et al.,
1989) and medical expenditures avoided as a result of smokers' premature
demise. The latter, in particular, has set off a "battle of the studies" to
ascertain whether the net medical expenditures associated with smoking are
positive or negative (Leu and Schaub, 1983; Manning et al., 1989; Hodgson,
1992; Barendregt et al., 1997; Warner et al., 1998). The entire question of
whether such "negative costs," or cost offsets, should be included in the
calculation of smoking's social costs has become a major front in the academic
battle over definition of the social costs of smoking. Viscusi (1995), for
example, recently concluded that consideration of medical and pension offsets
makes the net social costs of smoking small, if positive at all. Harris
countered that in no other area of social policy analysis is death treated as
an economic benefit (Coalition on Smoking or Health, 1994; Harris, 1993).
The import of this intellectual debate is potentially substantial. At
the center of the public health community's advocacy of higher cigarette taxes
is the social cost argument that smokers (or the industry that feeds their
addiction) are imposing a huge economic burden on the society and ought to pay
for it through higher excise taxes. Using the public health construction of
social cost, some analysts have concluded that in the U.S., the cigarette
excise tax needs to be on the order of $3-4 or more to cover these costs
(e.g., Hay, 1991).
Economists of many political stripes have countered that, for purposes
of estimating an optimal cigarette excise tax, the correct notion of social
cost is the traditional economist's measure of externalities, i.e., costs
imposed by smokers on others, excluding their own family members. Economists'
contributions to this debate are considered below, following a brief
discussion of the true heart of the public health case for higher taxes: the
health benefits that would result.
Economics of Smoking - p. 56
3.3.2 The health benefits of increasing cigarette taxes
Through a variety of channels, the economics literature on tax, price,
and demand has reached the public health community (Scott and Dickert, 1993;
Coalition on Smoking or Health, 1994). Given the strength of the evidence
linking price increases to demand decreases, with the consensus that price
elasticity is inversely related to age, the public health community has become
convinced that cigarette tax increases are one of the most effective policy
tools for decreasing smoking, especially among children. As a consequence,
increasing price, generally through a tax hike, is featured in nearly every
comprehensive tobacco control policy proposal.
The raison d'etre underlying the public health community's desire to see
smoking decline is to reduce the morbidity and disability and premature
mortality associated with smoking. Economists have taken the demand
elasticity evidence and combined it with data on the health consequences of
quitting smoking (primarily adults) and not starting (primarily children) to
project the health gains that would be achieved with tax increases of various
magnitudes. For example, in the mid-1980s, the U.S. Congress had to decide
whether to permit a scheduled "sun-setting" of 8 cents of the then 16-cent
cigarette excise tax (increased from 8 cents in 1983). Warner (1986b) used
the price elasticity estimates of Lewit et al. (1981) for children and Lewit
and Coate (1982) for adults to estimate the consumption implications of
permitting the sun-setting to occur or, instead, increasing the tax by 8 or 16
cents per pack. He concluded that if the tax were doubled to 32 cents, and
the real value of the tax maintained thereafter, 800,000 youths would be
deterred from starting to smoke and 2.7 million adults encouraged to quit.
Applying the conservative assumption that one of every four lifetime smokers
dies prematurely of a smoking-related illness (the proportion is now believed
to be about half), the analysis estimated that this tax increase would
eventually reduce premature deaths in persons then 12 years and older by
Economics of Smoking - p. 57
Harris (1987) also evaluated the consumptio n and health implications of
the 1983 doubling of the federal excise tax, considering the implications of
various elasticity estimates. He concluded that the tax increase had likely
deterred 600,000 youths from smoking and that, as a consequence of their
avoidance of cigarettes and adults quitting, 54,000 of the youths and an
additional 100,000 adults would survive to at least 65 years of age.
The General Accounting Office (1989) employed the same elasticity
estimates used by Warner (1986b) and the same assumptions about premature
mortality avoided to evaluate the likely health benefits from a sustained real
21-cent federal tax increase in 1989, which they estimated would increase
retail price by 15%. They predicted a further reduction in youth smoking of
500,000, with a subsequent reduction in premature mortality among these youths
Recently, Moore (1996) developed a more sophisticated econometric model
that, incorporating state-level data on death rates from smoking-related
diseases from 1954 through 1988, could be used to evaluate the impact of
higher taxes on mortality. He determined that a 10% increase in cigarette
excise taxes would save approximately 5,200 lives each year. Similarly, Evans
and Ringel (forthcoming) examined whether or not higher state cigarette taxes
can be used to improve birth outcomes. Using data on approximately 10.5
million births in the U.S. over the period from 1989 through 1992, the authors
estimated a smoking prevalence elasticity of -0.5 for pregnant women and found
that increased cigarette taxes would significantly raise birth weight.
With the help of economic consultants, the Coalition on Smoking or
Health (1994) used relatively conservative estimates of price elasticity and
of the mortality consequences of smoking to estimate the health implications
of alternative tax hikes advocated by the Coalition's member organizations.
The Coalition determined that a 75-cent tax increase in 1992 would reduce
premature deaths due to smoking by 900,000. A $2 per pack increase was
Economics of Smoking - p. 58
estimated to save 1 million more lives than the 75-cent increase.
Chaloupka (1998) did the same for the price increases included in many
of the recent proposals for national tobacco legislation in the US. Based on
Chaloupka and Grossman's (1996) estimates, Chaloupka estimated that a $1.50
increase in cigarette taxes and prices, phased in quickly and maintained in
real terms, would reduce overall cigarette consumption by about 30 percent
while cutting youth smoking prevalence almost in half. Based on the CDC's
(1996) estimates for the number of youth in the 1995 US cohort of 0 through 17
year olds who would eventually die prematurely from a smoking related illness,
Chaloupka estimated that this tax increase would prevent approximately 2.5
million deaths in this cohort.
To most members of the public health community, the health benefits of a
tax increase justify its imposition. However, public health professionals
appeal to the social cost argument to garner public and, especially,
legislative support. Given the conceptual as well as empirical problems with
the public health community's construction of the social cost of smoking,
discussed above, the question remains as to whether economists would find
theoretical justification for increasing the cigarette tax in the analyses of
external costs that have been performed to date, or for that matter in other
considerations. The next section addresses the economic efficiency issues and
3.4 Economic efficiency and the pursuit of an optimal cigarette tax
Most economists would concur that an economically optimal tax on
cigarettes would equate the revenues generated with the net external costs
produced by smoking.20 Here we review the evidence pertinent to determining
20 Pigou (1962) suggested that, for goods with market prices less than
their social costs, taxes could be used to raise the marginal cost of
consuming the good to the social marginal cost. For some goods, taxes could
generate revenues that exceed total external costs, reflecting the fact that
the taxes are based on marginal rather than average external costs (Cook and
Economics of Smoking - p. 59
such a tax and evaluate additional considerations that relate to the notion of
optimality when considering taxation of an addictive substance such as
3.4.1 Negative externalities associated with smoking
As discussed above, the public health community's definition of s ocial
costs incorporates both negative externalities and private costs. While
economists agree that the latter should not be considered as social costs in
contemplating a corrective tax on cigarettes, there is no complete consensus
on precisely what consequences warrant inclusion, and even for those for which
there is consensus, estimates of the magnitude of the true social
externalities vary widely. Moreover, other tobacco control policies,
particularly restrictions on smoking in public places and private worksites,
may be more efficient approaches to dealing with some of these externalities.
One author found that including the costs of the long-term intellectual
and physical consequences of smoking-related low-birth-weight disabilities
implied a tax of $4.80 per pack (Hay, 1991). In contrast, other studies have
found much smaller per-pack negative externalities, often less than existing
excise tax rates. For example, evaluating data from the RAND Health Insurance
Experiment and the 1983 National Health Interview Survey in an incidence-based
cost analysis, Manning et al. (1989) concluded that, for their mid-range
estimates, the negative externalities of smoking totaled the equivalent of 43
cents per pack (in 1986 dollars). Partially offsetting these negative
externalities, however, were an estimated 27 cents in "external savings"
resulting from smoking-related premature deaths, meaning that the net negative
externalities equaled 16 cents. The researchers thus concluded that the
empirical evidence did not justify raising the cigarette tax on grounds of
covering negative externalities. 21 In a later analysis that drew on the
21 Early analysis of the offsetting savings associated with smokers'
premature deaths is found in the work of Leu and Schaub (1983). These authors
estimated the lifetime medical expenditures of a cohort of Swiss males, which
Economics of Smoking - p. 60
Manning et al. study, Viscusi (1995) came to the same conclusion.
The Manning et al. study and Viscusi’s reanalysis hasbeen cited
frequently by opponents of a cigarette tax increase. Representing the Tobacco
Institute at a Senate hearing, Tollison (1994) identified the work by Manning
and his colleagues, as well as that of other prominent health economists, as
rejecting the propriety of an economically-motivated tax increase. The
Congressional Research Service ( Gravelle and Zimmerman, 1994) cited the same
study in the CRS's evaluation of the grounds for a tax increase (which the
authors found wanting). Updating the figures to 1995 dollars, the CRS
estimated the net negative externalities at 33 cents per pack of cigarettes,
two-thirds of the average 50 cents in federal and state taxes imposed on
cigarettes in late 1993.
Although the Manning et al. study has dominated attention within t he
economics debate about the marginal social costs of smoking, the study reveals
several problems of both omission and commission, many of which the authors
have acknowledged (Manning et al., 1991). Adjustments reflecting these issues
often lead to qualitatively different conclusions about the desirability of
increasing the cigarette excise tax. In terms of omission, most notably the
study excluded a variety of costs associated with environmental tobacco smoke
(ETS) that, if included, would significantly increase the social cost
estimate. Many of the health consequences of ETS were not well appreciated
included both smokers and nonsmokers, and compared them with the simulated
expenditures of a hypothetical cohort assumed to include only nonsmokers. The
authors concluded that the lifetime expenditures would be very similar for
both cohorts, with the higher annual costs of smokers in the "real" cohort
offset by the additional years of medical expenditures in the longer-lived
hypothetical no-smoker cohort. In estimating the medical costs of nonsmokers
in the hypothetical cohort, Leu and Schaub recognized that those who would
have been smokers in the "real" cohort would differ in ways other than just
smoking from those who would be nonsmokers in both cohorts. They introduced
the notion of the "non-smoker smoker type" as the conceptually correct entity
to evaluate in the hypothetical cohort, for those members who would have been
smokers in the "real" cohort. This useful distinction has been incorporated
in the work of several economists since then, including Manning et al. (1989).
Implicitly, it is embodied in all attempts to evaluate smoking-related health
care costs in which smokers' other risk-taking behaviors are controlled (e.g.,
Bartlett et al., 1994; Miller et al., 1998).
Economics of Smoking - p. 61
when Manning et al. undertook their research in the mid-1980s (e.g., the
consequences of ETS for heart disease). However, the authors made the
decision to consider then-known ETS costs as internal, based on the
traditional economic assumption that the family is the appropriate economic
unit for consumption decisions, including the decision to smoke. Further, the
authors reasoned, the adverse health consequences of smoking were largely
confined to the nonsmoking spouses of smokers. 22
Although few economists would challenge the sanctity of the family as
the basic economic unit, the assertion about the internal nature of ETS costs
is less clear. Certainly, some ETS costs are external to the family (e.g.,
airline attendants' ETS-induced lung disease prior to the banning of smoking
on flights). Others likely represent a mix of internal and external costs.
For example, disease and developmental problems associated with low birthweight
caused by mothers' smoking during pregnancy often have support costs
that spill over into the broader society, as social institutions are required
to pick up some of the medical, institutional, and other costs related to
these conditions. Thus, regardless of one's philosophical approach to the
issue of intra-family health problems caused by ETS, determining the
appropriate distribution of costs between family and the rest of society is a
The potential role of ETS costs in reevaluating the net negative
externalities associated with smoking is seen by considering the following
figures. Manning et al. (1991) noted that inclusion of the costs of 2,400
lung cancers from ETS (a fairly conservative estimate of this toll
(Environmental Protection Agency, 1992) ) as external costs would add
approximately 19 cents per pack in external costs (updated to 1994 dollars).
In addition, inclusion of the costs of neonatal care for smoking-related low-
22 At the time this analysis was undertaken, virtually all of the medical
literature indicting ETS as a cause of disease related to the experience of
nonsmoking wives of smoking husbands (U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services, 1986; Environmental Protection Agency, 1992); there was no
significant evidence of ETS exposure or disease effects outside of the home.
Economics of Smoking - p. 62
birth-weight babies would add 3 cents to the total, while including fetal
deaths attributable to smoking would add yet another 19 cents. Deaths from
smoking-related fires would add a further 9 cents. The ETS costs would skyrocket
if one included the estimated 30,000-60,000 heart disease deaths
recently associated with ETS (Glantz and Parmley, 1995), adding perhaps 70
cents to the total social costs per pack. Similarly, inclusion of the
smoking-induced respiratory tract infections and cases of aggravated asthma in
children (Environmental Protection Agency, 1992) would boost the total
further, as would inclusion of the long-term developmental disabilities in
smoking-related low-birth-weight babies (Hay, 1991). All told, the social
costs per pack could easily mount toward several dollars if all of the health
hazards associated with ETS are real, many are treated as external to the
basic consuming unit, and if all or even a significant fraction of the
associated costs are included.
ETS cost estimation is also influenced substantially by whether one
employs the human capital approach or willingness-to-pay to value the lives of
persons who die prematurely due to ETS exposure. Manning et al. used a
conservative estimate of $1.66 million per premature death based on the range
of estimates in the literature. 23 Using willingness-to-pay, the Environmental
Protection Agency (1994) obtained a $4.8 million figure. In its analysis
(which included the adverse effects of ETS on heart disease and children's
health, but not on fetal and perinatal health), the EPA estimated that the
benefits that would result from a ban on smoking in all worksites would total
between $39 billion and $71 billion annually, the equivalent of from $2.45 to
$4.45 per pack of cigarettes. The EPA used fairly conservative assumptions
concerning the effects of a worksite smoking ban on smoking and exposure to
23 As discussed above, the authors' estimates of external costs
attributable to ETS were negligible, making the choice of the cost of a
premature death of little consequence to their calculations (Manning et al.,
1989). However, had they included the full range of health consequences now
attributed to ETS, the choice of a value-of-life measure would have been of
much greater importance.
Economics of Smoking - p. 63
ETS. They assumed a ban would reduce the number of current smokers by 3-6%,
the number of future smokers by 5-10%, and daily consumption among continuing
smokers by 10-15%, for a total long-run reduction in cigarette consumption of
14-22%. The EPA estimated that these consumption reductions would reduce outof-
home ETS exposure by 90% and in-home exposure by 6.4%. An earlier EPA
report (1992) had concluded that an estimated 73% of ETS exposure occurs
outside the home. The EPA thus predicted that a worksite ban would reduce
total ETS exposure by 66.4%.
Quite independent of the treatment of the effects of ETS, the Manning et
al. (1989) study and "spin-offs", such as Gravelle and Zimmerman's (1994)
review of the evidence and Viscusi’s (1995) reanalysis, raise the issue of
which types of costs ought to be included in calculations of external costs.
Manning and colleagues' finding that current taxes covered external costs
would have been reversed had the authors not included the value of pensions
and Social Security benefits not realized by smokers by virtue of their
premature demise. As demonstrated by Shoven et al. (1989), smokers subsidize
nonsmokers' Social Security benefits by virtue of the smokers' early average
ages of death; the same relationship should hold for defined benefit pensions
as well. Some analysts have considered this a transfer, not subject to
consideration as an externality, rather than a compensating external benefit
of smoking, as Manning et al. treated it. However, Manning et al. did not
consider it a transfer because they viewed the length of life of smokers as
endogenous. As the literature on the costs of smoking demonstrates
repeatedly, inclusion or exclusion of such costs can play a significant role
in calculating net external costs. 24
24 Other candidates for inclusion are the reduction in income taxes and
insurance premiums paid by smokers due to reduced earnings associated with
smoking-related illnesses; smoking-related health care costs paid by public
insurance plans (and conceivably private, depending on how these are treated);
and increased sick pay and disability benefits paid during smoking-related
illnesses. If such items are included, care must be taken to consider both
reduced payments by smokers into public revenues and altered patterns of
consumption of government-financed goods and services.
Economics of Smoking - p. 64
The importance and complexity of the handling of such matters is
illustrated by their differential effects in different societies and at
different times. For example, as just noted, in the U.S. analysts have
concluded that, by dying early, smokers subsidize nonsmokers' Social Security
payments (Shoven et al., 1989; Viscusi, 1995). In the United Kingdom, by
contrast, research indicated that sickness benefits paid to smokers and
pensions paid to their dependents compensated for the lower direct pension
benefits paid to smokers as a consequence of their earlier average age of
death (Atkinson and Townsend, 1977). In developing countries in which old-age
expenses are largely a private matter, the social "benefit" of smokers' dying
early would not exist, and hence would not offset any negative externalities
of smoking. Of course, this could change over time if and as such societies
developed social security plans. Similarly, the magnitude of the offsets in
the developed countries could change if and as benefit programs in those
countries were altered (Warner et al., 1995).
As this discussion has demonstrated, calculation of the "true" net
negative externalities associated with smoking is an exceedingly difficult
challenge, one that involves conceptual questions, epidemiologic and other
data considerations, and "moving targets" in terms of both knowledge and
institutional structures. The relevance of the task to understanding optimal
cigarette taxation recommends further research, despite its difficulty. 25
3.4.2 Other efficiency considerations
Several factors related to smoking complicate the task of defining an
optimal cigarette tax. Two essential realities about smoking -- namely, that
it is a behavior initiated almost exclusively during childhood (U.S.
25 An interesting example of the problems created by institutional
structures in trying to assess the relevance of ETS to determining an optimal
tax lies in the effects of workplace smoking bans on the development of ETSrelated
diseases: the more pervasive are workplace bans, the less ETS
exposure nonsmokers will experience, and hence the amount of ETS-related
disease will decline. This, in turn, would decrease the conceptually optimal
Economics of Smoking - p. 65
Department of Health and Human Services, 1994) and that it is addictive (U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services, 1988) -- give pause in treating
cigarette consumption just like any other rational economic behavior. A third
reality -- that many smokers are not truly well informed about the hazards of
smoking (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1989; Schoenbaum,
1997)26 -- also challenges a basic proposition of rational behavior. For
smoking as for other consumption, rational economic behavior presumes both the
existence of adequate knowledge on which to base consumption decisions and
rational use of the knowledge. In the absence of adequate knowledge, higher
taxes might be justified (Cordes et al., 1990). One may be particularly
interested in applying this concept to teenagers, although increasing taxes is
a decidedly blunt instrument if its purpose is solely to better "inform"
youths about the risks of smoking (Warner et al., 1995).
As discussed in an earlier section, the empirical applications of the
rational addiction model suggest that addicted adult smokers do not behave
myopically in contemplating the relationship between cigarette consumption and
past, present, and expected future prices. However, as the evidence reviewed
above indicated, youth exhibit much more myopic cigarette consumption behavior
than do adults, consistent with studies that have found young smokers greatly
underestimating the probability that they would still be smoking five years
later (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1994). Moreover, as
illustrated by the Orphanides and Zervos (1995) model, the role of information
(more specifically the lack of information on the potential for addiction) is
particularly important in the initiation process, and results in later regret.
A group of health economists who have studied the economics of smoking
recently concluded that protecting children from a future of nicotine
addiction, with its associated health risks, was the most compelling reason
favoring increased taxation of cigarettes (Warner et al., 1995). They
perceived high taxes as appropriate to balance an environment in which
26 For a contrary view, see Viscusi (1992).
Economics of Smoking - p. 66
children face numerous inducements to smoke, including multi-billion dollar
advertising and marketing campaigns by the cigarette companies, many designed
to attract children to smoking (US Department of Health and Human Services,
1994). To address this imbalance, these economists supported such measures as
increased public education and increased enforcement of restrictions on youth
access to tobacco products, although the limited effectiveness of such
measures is well documented. (See section 5 below.) The economists observed,
however, that these measures do not address children's tendency to discount
the future heavily, in a manner that, as rational adults, they might come to
regret. Taxation, they felt, is the best available policy instrument to
address this problem, both conceptually and empirically. As observed above,
two recent analyses (Orphanides and Zervos, 1995; Suranovic et al., in press)
examining the initiation of smoking, continuation over time, and eventual
consideration of quitting (and difficulty in doing so) lend new insight into
this issue of regret.
4. Advertising, promotion, and the demand for tobacco products
Cigarettes are one of the most heavily advertised and promoted products
in the world. In the United States, for example, the cigarette industry spent
$5.1 billion on advertising and promotion activities in 1996 (Federal Trade
Commission, 1998); as a percentage of sales, these expenditures have increased
dramatically since 1980. Cigarette advertising includes the more traditional
advertising on television, radio, and billboards, in newspapers, magazines,
and transit facilities, and, most recently, on the internet. Spending on
promotion includes a wide variety of activities, including promotional
allowances to retailers, point-of-purchase promotional materials, direct mail
advertising, the distribution of free samples, coupons, and specialty items,
multiple pack promotions, and retail value-added offers, as well as
endorsements, sponsorship of cultural, sporting, and other entertainment
events, and sponsorship of community and other organizations. Nearly 87% of
Economics of Smoking - p. 67
all cigarette advertising and promotional expenditures in the U.S. in 1974
were devoted to traditional advertising; by 1996, in striking contrast, this
had fallen to just over 10%, with the balance going to the less-traditional
promotional activities. Promotional allowances ($2.15 billion in 1996) and
coupons and retail value added ($1.31 billion in 1996) have been the largest
spending categories in recent years.
This section begins with a brief discussion of the arguments related to
cigarette advertising and demand, as well as a review of some of the economic
issues related to cigarette advertising. We then examine the econometric
literature on the impact of cigarette advertising on smoking, consider the
limitations of the econometric approach, and review the growing literature on
the impact of restrictions and bans on cigarette advertising and promotion.
The section closes with a short description of the findings on cigarette
advertising and demand from the non-economics literature.
4.1 Theoretical and conceptual issues
The impact of cigarette advertising on cigarette smoking, particularly
youth smoking, has been the subject of extensive debate over the past several
decades. The public health community takes it as given that advertising
encourages smoking and is a particularly significant influence on smoking
initiation among youth. The industry, on the other hand, contends that
cigarette advertising is a form of competition that has no impact on overall
cigarette smoking, but instead simply affects market share. In addition, the
industry argues that advertising provides useful information to smokers about
their products, including information on tar and nicotine content.
Warner (1986a) suggested several mechanisms through which cigarette
advertising and promotion could affect cigarette consumption. He identified
four direct mechanisms: (1) advertising can entice children and young adults
to experiment with smoking and to initiate regular smoking; (2) it can reduce
current smokers' willingness to quit smoking; (3) it can serve as a cue or
Economics of Smoking - p. 68
stimulus that leads to increased daily cigarette consumption by smokers; and
(4) it can induce former smokers to resume their habit by reinforcing the
attractions of smoking. Two indirect mechanisms were: (1) discouraging a
full discussion of the health consequences of cigarette smoking in media
dependent on tobacco advertising; and (2) contributing to a social environment
in which smoking is perceived to be socially acceptable. The U.S. Surgeon
General (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1989) added a third
indirect mechanism, namely that institutions dependent on tobacco industry
promotional and other support may create political opposition to strong
tobacco control policies.
Warner and his colleagues (Warner, 1985; Warner and Goldenhar, 1989;
Warner et al., 1992) have examined the first indirect mechanism empirically,
concluding that there is strong evidence that magazines' coverage of the
hazards of smoking was significantly diminished as the magazines' share of
advertising revenues from cigarette advertising rises. Warner et al. (1992)
found that magazines that did not carry cigarette advertising were more than
40% more likely to cover the health consequences of smoking than those with
cigarette advertising. The difference was more pronounced for women's
magazines, with those that did not advertise cigarettes more than 230 percent
more likely to cover the hazards of smoking.
4.2 Econometric evidence
Other than this work by Warner and colleagues, research by economists
has not addressed the hypothesized individual mechanisms by which advertising
can influence cigarette consumption. However, beginning with Schmalensee's
1972 study, there have been numerous econometric studies of the impact of
cigarette advertising on cigarette demand, mostly for the U.S. and the U.K,
but also for several other countries as well. No consensus concerning the
effects of advertising on smoking has emerged from this research, however.
Several recent reviews of this literature, drawing on many of the same
Economics of Smoking - p. 69
studies, reached opposite conclusions. Based on their review of 24 studies
with estimates of the advertising elasticity of cigarette demand, Andrews and
Franke (1991) concluded "that there is a significant relationship between
advertising and cigarette consumption across studies, independent of study
design factors. However, the estimated magnitude of this relationship varies
depending on several study design factors" (page 96). Moreover, they
concluded that the positive impact of advertising on cigarette demand has
declined over time, a factor they attributed to the maturation of cigarette
markets in most of the countries studied. Duffy (1996b), on the other hand,
concluded that econometric studies of the relationship between cigarette
advertising and demand generally have found that advertising has little or no
impact on aggregate cigarette consumption.
In his now classic volume, The Economics of Advertising, Schmalensee
(1972) introduced several concepts that reemerge repeatedly in subsequent
studies of cigarette advertising and demand. In particular, he examined
cigarette demand at both the industry and firm levels, allowed for the
possibility that a firm's cigarette advertising expenditures might be based on
current sales, and modeled not only the effects of current advertising
expenditures on demand but also the impact of lagged expenditures. As
Schmalensee observed, failing to account for the potential endogeneity of
cigarette advertising expenditures would lead to biased estimates of the
impact of advertising on demand. Similarly, failing to account for the
cumulative or "stock" effects of advertising could lead to an omitted
variables problem, although the evidence is mixed concerning the durability of
cigarette advertising (Boyd and Seldon, 1990). Schneider et al. (1981)
extended the use of the "stock" of advertising to allow the marginal
productivity of advertising expenditures in the U.S. to fall after the 1971
ban on broadcast cigarette advertising.
An additional issue raised by Schmalensee relates to the measurement of
advertising expenditures. In half of his industry-level models, he used the
Economics of Smoking - p. 70
absolute level of cigarette advertising, while in the other half, he used the
ratio of cigarette advertising to total advertising, providing an intuitive
argument favoring the latter analogous to the use of relative rather than
absolute price. Subsequent theoretical models of consumer behavior have made
this argument more formally (Theil, 1980; Duffy, 1987).
The numerous econometric studies on the impact of aggregate cigarette
advertising expenditures on aggregate cigarette consumption differ with
respect to many of the issues raised by Schmalensee, as well as in several
other respects. Almost none follows Schmalensee and treats advertising
expenditures as endogenous. A few estimate firm-specific demand (e.g.,
Roberts and Samuelson, 1988), while most examine industry demand. Several
introduce measures of past advertising expenditures; some do so directly
(e.g., Goel and Morey, 1995), while others construct a cumulative "stock" of
advertising (e.g., Schneider et al., 1981). Most look at absolute or per
capita measures of cigarette advertising expenditures, while a few employ
measures of expenditures on cigarette advertising relative to overall
advertising expenditures (e.g., Duffy, 1996a). Many estimate single equation
models of cigarette demand; several, however, estimate simultaneous equations
models of supply and demand (e.g., Porter, 1986). Most estimate conventional
demand models, while some estimate myopic demand models that include a measure
of past cigarette consumption (e.g., Baltagi and Levin, 1986) or an
alternative approach (Fujii, 1980); one estimates demand in the context of the
rational addiction model (Duffy, 1996a).
Schmalensee (1972) and many subsequent econometric studies based on
aggregate data from the U.S., U.K., and a few other countries found no
statistically significant effect of aggregate cigarette advertising
expenditures on cigarette consumption (Hamilton, 1972; Lambin, 1976;
Grabowski, 1976, 1978; Metra Consulting Group, 1979; Schneider et al., 1981;
Johnson, 1986; Baltagi and Levin, 1986; Stavrinos, 1987; Tegene, 1991; Duffy,
1991, 1996a; Wilcox and Vacker, 1992; U.K. Department of Health, 1992; Wilcox
Economics of Smoking - p. 71
et al., 1994; Franke, 1994; Goel and Morey, 1995). A few of these studies,
however, did find some evidence that lagged cigarette advertising had a
significant positive impact on current cigarette consumption, providing some
support for the durability of advertising ( Schmalensee, 1972; U.K. Department
of Health, 1992; Goel and Morey, 1995). Several other studies have found that
cigarette advertising has a positive and significant impact on aggregate
cigarette demand (McGuiness and Cowling, 1975, 1980; Fujii, 1980; Witt and
Pass, 1981; Reuijl, 1982; Radfar, 1985; Bishop and Yoo, 1985; Leeflang and
Reuijl, 1985; Abernethy and Teel, 1986; Porter, 1986; Roberts and Samuelson,
1988; Chetwynd et al., 1988; McAuliffe, 1988; Kao and Tremblay, 1988; Seldon
and Doroodian, 1989; Seldon and Boyd, 1991; Valdes, 1993; Tremblay and
Tremblay, 1995). However, the magnitude of the estimated effect is generally
small. Differences in the design, data, and empirical methods account for the
Based on the mixed evidence from the studies using aggregate data,
aggregate cigarette advertising appears to have a small or negligible impact
on aggregate cigarette sales. However, as a number of researchers have
observed, the nature of competition in the cigarette industry and the
limitation of econometric analysis to estimating marginal effects imply that
there should be at most a small impact of aggregate cigarette advertising
expenditures on aggregate cigarette consumption (Cox, 1984; Warner, 1986a;
Warner et al., 1986; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1989;
Saffer, 1995, 1998; Pollay, 1996).
As Saffer (1995, 1998) has noted, advertising expenditures will have
diminishing marginal productivity. Drawing on the "advertising response
functions" used to characterize brand-level advertising in the empirical
marketing literature, which clearly imply diminishing returns to advertising
at the brand level (Rao and Miller, 1975; Ackoff and Ernshoff, 1975), Saffer
concluded that an "industry advertising response function" will also show
diminishing returns to increasing expenditures and marginal effects could be
Economics of Smoking - p. 72
well below average effects. Moveover, in a highly concentrated market with a
virtual absence of price competition, where the "personality" of the product
is very important to consumers, total advertising expenditures will almost
certainly exceed the "rational" level associated with joint profit
maximization that would be expected to show a significant positive impact on
overall demand. Instead, in an effort to increase or protect market share,
firms will advertise beyond the level where one would expect to find a sizable
positive marginal effect of total advertising on total demand, assuming that
the firms do not collude in deciding upon the amount of advertising. A number
of econometric studies have looked at the impact of advertising on demand at
the firm or brand level. These generally have found that increases in
advertising expenditures have a positive and significant effect on market
share (Telser, 1962; Peles, 1971; Schnabel, 1972; Grabowski, 1978; Holak and
Reddy 1986; Pollay 1996). Pollay (1996), for example, estimated that "share
of voice" (brand share of advertising expenditures) has a significant impact
on market shares, and that brand choice among teenagers is about three times
more sensitive to advertising than it is for adults (a result surprisingly
similar to the estimates for youth and adult price sensitivity).
In short, given that the econometric analyses of aggregate expenditures
and consumption are designed to assess the impact of a marginal change in
advertising expenditures on total cigarette sales, it is not surprising that
most of these analyses estimate small or insignificant effects of advertising
on demand. In addition, critics of these analyses suggest several
methodological shortcomings, including : the lack of appropriate measures of
advertising exposure and other problems with the measures of advertising
employed; the failure to distinguish between the impact of advertising and
promotional activities; problems with the simultaneity between advertising
expenditures and sales; the omission of other key variables, such as
concurrent counteradvertising; and more (Cox, 1984; Warner, 1986a; Warner et
al., 1986; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1989; Chapman, 1989;
Economics of Smoking - p. 73
U.K. Department of Health, 1992; Luik, 1994; Saffer, 1995, 1998; Duffy, 1996b;
Pollay, 1996). These and other critics have suggested that more appropriate
approaches include the examination of more disaggregated data and the analysis
of non-marginal changes in advertising expenditures, such as those that result
from significant restrictions or complete bans on cigarette advertising and
To date, only one econometric study has examined the impact of cigarette
advertising employing individual level data and more appropriate measures of
advertising exposure. Lewit et al. (1981) used data on about 6,700 youth ages
12-17 years taken from Cycle III of the U.S. Health Examination Survey
conducted from 1966 through 1970. Based on measures of televised cigarette
advertising and counter-advertising, and self-reported information on time
spent watching television, Lewit and his colleagues estimated the number of
pro- and anti-smoking commercials each youth would have seen. Their estimates
provide support for the hypothesis that televised pro-smoking advertisements
significantly increased youth smoking.
There are a number of studies examining th e impact of restrictions and
bans on cigarette advertising on smoking. Many of the older studies look at
the impact of the U.S. ban on broadcast cigarette advertising that began
January 2, 1971 (Ippolito et al., 1979; Schneider et al, 1981; Bishop and Yoo,
1985; Porter, 1986; Baltagi and Levin, 1986; Kao and Tremblay, 1988;
McAuliffe, 1988; Seldon and Dooroodian, 1989; Seldon and Boyd, 1991; Simonich,
1991; Franke, 1994; Goel and Morey, 1995; Tremblay and Tremblay, 1995). In
general, these studies produced mixed evidence on the impact of the ban on
television and radio advertising. Most concluded that the ban did not
significantly reduce cigarette smoking in the U.S. A few suggested that the
marginal productivity of cigarette advertising fell after the ban (for
example, Tremblay and Tremblay, 1995). Several, including Hamilton (1972) and
Warner (1979), suggested that the net impact of the 1971 ban was to raise
cigarette consumption because it also led to the elimination of effective
Economics of Smoking - p. 74
anti-smoking commercials broadcast under the Fairness Doctrine (discussed
below). Schneider et al. (1981) supported this argument empirically,
concluding that the advertising ban led to a net increase of nearly 5% in per
capita tobacco consumption, in part due to a price reduction resulting from
the reduced costs associated with less advertising. In addition, they argued,
the advertising ban limited the provision of information to smokers concerning
the tar and nicotine content of different brands and, consequently, reduced
the likelihood that smokers would switch to lower tar and nicotine brands.
Others examined the impact of other country-specific restrictions,
including: the 1965 U.K. ban on televised cigarette advertising (Atkinson and
Skegg, 1973; Witt and Pass, 1984); the ban on advertising in electronic media
in Australia (Johnson, 1986; McLeod, 1986); the Finnish extension of its
television ad ban to other media ( Pekurinen, 1989, 1991); and Spain's partial
ban on broadcast advertising (Valdes, 1993). Hamilton (1977) presented
similar estimates from separate regressions for 11 countries over the period
1948-1973. These studies also produced mixed evidence on the effectiveness of
these partial bans. In general, they suggested that the bans led to a
temporary reduction in cigarette smoking, but that they had little impact in
the long run. However, more extensive restrictions coupled with anti-smoking
publicity, strong health warnings, and other activities appear to have led to
more permanent reductions in demand ( Pekurinen, 1989, 1991).
Still others have conducted cross-country analyses of the impact of
restrictions and bans on cigarette advertising and promotion (Hamilton, 1977;
Cox and Smith, 1984; Laugesen and Meads, 1991; and Stewart, 1993). These,
too, have yielded mixed findings. In addition to country-specific
regressions, Hamilton (1977) included models pooling some of the countries in
his sample. As in the country-specific models, he found no evidence that
advertising restrictions reduced cigarette demand. Cox and Smith (1984) took
an indirect approach to estimating the impact of advertising bans on demand.
Using data from 15 OECD countries, they sorted countries by their use of
Economics of Smoking - p. 75
legislative versus voluntary strategies to reduce smoking, where limits on
advertising reflected a more legislative strategy. Based on a series of
country-specific regression models, they concluded that smoking declines more
rapidly in countries that take a legislative approach to tobacco control,
suggesting that advertising restrictions are effective in reducing demand.
Laugesen and Meads (1991) pooled annual aggregate data from 22 OECD
countries for the period 1960-1986 in their examination of the impact of
advertising and promotion restrictions. Rather than focusing on a specific
type of restriction (e.g., a broadcast advertising ban), Laugesen and Meads
constructed an advertising restriction index that ranges from zero (no
restrictions) to 10 (complete bans on advertising and sponsorships coupled
with multiple, strong warning labels on cigarette packaging). Estimates from
this model imply that cigarette consumption would be about 6% lower with the
strongest restrictions than it would be with no restrictions. In their
preferred specification, to account for the lagged effects of advertising, the
coefficient on the advertising restriction index was interacted with time. In
this specification, Laugesen and Meads found that advertising restrictions
actually had a positive effect on cigarette demand through the early 1970s,
but then reduced consumption after 1973. Estimates for the final year of
their data implied that each additional point in the restriction index reduced
cigarette consumption by about 1.5 percent, well above their estimate for the
specification that does not allow the effect to vary over time. Laugesen and
Meads attributed the positive effects of the ban early in their sample to the
industry's ability to substitute other marketing activities for broadcasting
advertising in response to early restrictions. However, its ability to
substitute other media for banned media diminished over time as the
restrictions became more comprehensive.
Stewart (1992) raised a number of concerns about the approach taken by
Laugesen and Meads. Specifically, Stewart argued that errors in variables for
the dependent and several independent variables will bias the estimates on the
Economics of Smoking - p. 76
advertising restriction coefficients. In addition, he argued that the
Laugesen and Meads approach failed to account for unmeasured, country-specific
factors (i.e., culture, tastes, and attitudes) that should be important
determinants of cigarette consumption, and that the omission of these factors
leads to biased estimates of the advertising restriction coefficients.
Laugesen and Meads (1993) defended the estimates from their research, arguing
that after correcting for errors in the data, the estimates confirmed their
earlier finding that bans on advertising significantly reduce cigarette
consumption. The authors did not present these revised estimates in their
Using data on 22 OECD countries for the period 1964-1990, Stewart (1993)
presented his own empirical analysis of the impact of restrictions on
cigarette advertising on demand. He estimated fixed effects models to control
for unmeasured country-specific influences on demand. Rather than using a
comprehensive measure of restrictions on cigarette advertising, however,
Stewart focused on bans on the televised advertising of cigarettes. Also, in
contrast to Laugesen and Meads, Stewart did not allow the impact of the
advertising restriction to change over time. He estimated that the ban on
cigarette advertising on television has had a positive but insignificant
impact on cigarette demand, consistent with the findings from several other
studies on the effects of broadcast advertising bans alone.
In late 1992 the United Kingdom's Department of Health reviewed the
evidence on the impact of cigarette advertising and restrictions on
advertising on cigarette demand (U.K. Department of Health, 1992). The "Smee
Report," known by the name of the project director, also contains two original
econometric analyses on the impact of advertising restrictions, one for Norway
and the other for Canada. Estimates from these analyses suggest that the
countries' relatively comprehensive advertising and promotion bans did lead to
significant reductions in smoking. Given this evidence as well as that from
the numerous qualitative and quantitative studies reviewed, the Smee Report
Economics of Smoking - p. 77
concluded that cigarette advertising has a positive impact on smoking and that
bans on advertising would reduce demand.
In a subsequent edited volume, critics of the Smee Report argued that it
was flawed in several ways, including the following : the literature review
omitted several qualitative and quantitative studies that found no impact of
advertising or ad restrictions on cigarette demand; the findings from some of
the literature reviewed are misstated; the empirical analyses contained
methodological and other errors ( Luik, 1994). Stewart (1994), for example,
compared the estimates for the countries common to his 1993 econometric
analysis with those presented in the Smee Report, concluding that advertising
bans in Norway, Finland and Canada have actually increased tobacco
The Smee Report, Saffer (1998), Stewart (1993), and others have
indicated several factors that complicate the ability of econometric analysis
to examine the impact on cigarette demand of restrictions on cigarette
advertising and promotion. The potential endogeneity of advertising
restrictions has not been carefully examined in any of the econometric
studies. Similarly, with the exception of Stewart (1993), social, cultural,
and other differences among countries have not been well controlled for in the
econometric research. However, efforts to control for these, using fixed
effects modeling for example, create severe multicollinearity problems that
make it difficult to isolate the impact of the advertising restrictions on
demand from other key determinants. Similarly, as Saffer noted, a majority of
the studies to date have examined the impact of restrictions on advertising in
one or two media, leaving firms free to substitute towards other media and to
develop new marketing approaches. The findings from several studies, which
suggest at best a temporary negative effect of a relatively limited set of
advertising restrictions, are consistent with the argument that effective
27 The Smee Report's estimate for Finland is based on the work by
Pekurinen (1989, 1991) rather than an original econometric analysis.
Economics of Smoking - p. 78
alternatives are developed in response to the ban. So to are the findings
from the few studies that have found that relatively comprehensive
restrictions significantly reduce demand.
4.3 Findings from the noneconomic literature
While econometric methods are powerful tools for examining the demand
for cigarettes and other tobacco products generally, they are relatively illsuited
for evaluating the effects of cigarette advertising and promotion and
related restrictions, as described above. Evidence from a number of other
disciplines, however, supports the argument that cigarette advertising and
promotion directly and indirectly increase cigarette demand (Warner, 1986a;
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1989, 1994, 1996, 1998; U.K.
Department of Health, 1992).
A major source of noneconomic evidence is survey research and
experiments that assess reactions to and recall of cigarette advertising and
smoking behavior, particularly among children. These studies have concluded
that cigarette advertising is effective in getting children's attention and
that the ads are recalled, with strength of interest correlated with current
or anticipated smoking behavior or smoking initiation (U.S. Department of
Health and Human Services, 1989, 1994; Food and Drug Administration, 1996;
Goldstein et al., 1987; DiFranza et al., 1991; Evans et al., 1995; Pierce et
al., 1998). However, these studies generally cannot assess the potential
endogeneity between an interest in smoking and behavior (U.S. Department of
Health and Human Services, 1989, 1996).
Others have articulated logical arguments t hat conclude that cigarette
advertising and promotional activities are not consistent with the tobacco
industry's claim that the market for tobacco products is mature and that
marketing activities are designed to promote brand share rather than market
expansion. For example, Tye et al. (1987) calculated that cigarette firms'
battling only for brand share did not make financial sense in a U.S. market in
Economics of Smoking - p. 79
which the top two firms now control 75% of cigarette sales (and one company
has 95% of smokeless tobacco sales) and in which brand loyalty is notoriously
strong. The authors argued that if the industry believed its own brand-share
argument, it would have welcomed the opportunity for a legislated ban on
tobacco advertising, proposed in the U.S. Congress in the mid-1980s. Instead,
the industry fought the ban vigorously. Similarly, Warner (1986a) noted that
even if the industry is a mature or declining one, retaining existing
consumers and recruiting new ones would be particularly important in the
cigarette market in which about 5% of consumers are lost annually to cessation
and death. Finally, while the overall market may be mature, there are
segments of the market that appear to be potential growth markets, such as
youth in the U.S., for whom smoking prevalence has risen throughout the 1990s
(University of Michigan News and Information Services, 1997), or specific
minority groups, such as Hispanic females for whom smoking rates are well
below those of other groups of women (U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services, 1998). Substantial evidence, including recently released internal
industry documents (www.house.gov/commerce/TobaccoDocs/documents.html),
indicates that increasing shares of advertising and promotion activities have
been directed towards these growth or potential growth markets (U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services, 1989, 1994, 1998; U.K. Department of
Health, 1992; King et al., 1998; industry documents - need refs.).
Clearly, there is no "smoking gun" that proves that advertising and
promotion play a significant role in expanding or maintaining the market for
tobacco products, or that they do not. Examining all of the evidence
collectively, Warner (1986a) concluded that it is more likely than not that
advertising and promotion do stimulate cigarette consumption. However, he
also characterized the extent of the influence of advertising as unknown and
To date, economists' contributions to the relevant body of knowledge
about cigarette advertising have been less numerous, and likely less
Economics of Smoking - p. 80
consequential, than in other areas of smoking and health, such as the highly
productive work on the relationship between cigarette price and demand,
reviewed in section 2. Still, the econometric research in this area has
offered important insights into the challenge of evaluating the effects of
advertising. The door is open for creative new work to follow.
5. Other tobacco control policies and demand
This section focuses on the impact on cigarette demand of some of the
more widely used tobacco control policies in addition to taxation and
advertising restrictions, including the dissemination of information on the
health consequences of smoking, restrictions on smoking in public places and
work places, and limits on youth access to tobacco products. Other policies,
such as the disclosure of tobacco product constituents and the funding of
school-based smoking prevention programs, have not been the subject of
5.1 Health information and counter-advertising
In both the early 1950s and the mid-1960s, smoking-related "health
scares" received substantial public attention in the United States. The first
was prompted by coverage in the popular media of the then-new scientific
evidence linking smoking to lung cancer ( Wynder and Graham, 1950; Doll and
Hill, 1954). Illustrative was an article in the December, 1952 Reader's
Digest entitled "Cancer by the Carton" ( Norr, 1952). The second followed
release of the first Surgeon General's report on smoking and health (U.S.
Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, 1964), the first official
government document to label smoking a cause of lung cancer and to call for
"appropriate remedial action." Media attention to the report ranked it as
one of the year's most covered news stories.
The impact of these "health scares" has been the subject of extensive
econometric analysis (Sumner, 1971; Hamilton, 1972; Schmalensee, 1972;
Economics of Smoking - p. 81
Atkinson and Skegg, 1973; McGuiness and Cowling, 1975; Thompson and McLeod,
1976; Warner, 1977, 1981a, 1989; Ippolito et al., 1979; Fujii, 1980; Schneider
et al., 1981; Leu, 1984; Porter, 1986; Bishop and Yoo, 1985; Kao and Tremblay,
1988; Simonich, 1991; Pekurinen, 1989, 1991; Meier and Licari, 1997). In
general, these and other studies concluded that cigarette smoking fell
significantly in response to the new information on its health consequences.
Warner (1977, 1981a), for example, found that the public scares in the early
1950s significantly reduced smoking in 1953 and 1954, but that their negative
impact diminished through the decade. He concluded that the 1964 Surgeon
General's report led to an immediate 5% decline in cigarette consumption.
Schneider et al. (1981) estimated that U.S. per capita tobacco consumption was
about 39 percent lower in 1978 than it would have been in the absence of the
two health scares.
The evidence linking cigarette smoking to morbidity and premature
mortality led to a number of public policy efforts to disseminate information
on the health consequences of smoking. Numerous countries have adopted
policies requiring health warning labels on cigarette packaging and
advertising; in general, these warnings have become stronger and more
prominent over time. Non-econometric evaluations of warning labels have
concluded that small, inconspicuous labels that provide little specific
information about the consequences of smoking are generally ineffective.
However, multiple, strong, and direct messages that are prominently displayed
have been found to be effective (World Health Organization, 1997). The
limited econometric evidence also suggests that health warning labels have led
to small but significant reductions in cigarette smoking ( Abernethy and Teel,
1986; Tansel, 1993; Meier and Licari, 1997; Bardsley and Olekans, 1998).
Mass media "counter-advertising" campaigns have been widely used to
discourage cigarette smoking and other tobacco use. Econometric analyses of
anti-smoking publicity and paid counter-advertising generally, but not
universally, have concluded that these campaigns have significantly reduced
Economics of Smoking - p. 82
cigarette smoking (Hamilton, 1972; Warner, 1977, 1981a, 1989; Ippolito et al.,
1979; Metra Consulting Group, 1979; Fujii, 1980; Schneider et al., 1981;
Lewit et al., 1981; Porter, 1986; Abernethy and Teel, 1986; Baltagi and Levin,
1986; Stavrinos, 1987; Kao and Tremblay, 1988; Pekurinen, 1989, 1991;
Simonich, 1991; Tansel, 1993; Hu et al., 1994, 1995b, 1995c; Tremblay and
Tremblay, 1995; Goel and Morey, 1995; Hsieh et al., 1996). Much of the
econometric evidence from the U.S. is based on two major counter-advertising
campaigns: the anti-smoking messages broadcast in the late-1960s under the
Federal Communications Commission's Fairness Doctrine (Hamilton, 1972; Warner,
1977, 1981a, 1989; Ippolito et al., 1979; Fujii, 1980; Schneider et al.,
1981; Lewit et al., 1981; Porter, 1986; Baltagi and Levin, 1986; Simonich,
1991; Tremblay and Tremblay, 1995; Goel and Morey, 1995) and the anti-smoking
media campaign in California in the early 1990s, funded by an earmarked tax on
cigarettes (Hu et al., 1994, 1995b, 1995c).
From 1967 until January 2, 1971, the date television and radio
advertising of cigarettes was banned, anti-smoking messsages were broadcast to
"compensate" for pro-smoking advertisements, initially at the rate of one
anti-smoking message for every eight cigarette ads and eventually at a 1:3
ratio. Television time for these counter-advertisements was donated by
broadcasters under the Fairness Doctrine which required broadcasters to air
both sides of a controversial issue if one side was being aired. Per capita
cigarette consumption dropped four years in a row, for the first time in
history (Warner, 1977, 1979). Schneider et al. (1981) concluded that the
counter-advertising reduced per capita consumption by approximately 5%. Using
individual-level data on smoking among youth ages 12-17, taken from Cycle III
of the Health Examination Survey, Lewit and his colleagues (1981) found that
the anti-smoking messages significantly reduced youth smoking prevalence.
In 1988, California voters passed Proposition 99, the California Tobacco
Tax and Health Promotion Act. The Act raised the state cigarette tax by 25
cents per pack and earmarked 20 percent of new tax revenues for health
Economics of Smoking - p. 83
education programs to reduce cigarette smoking, including a statewide media
campaign. Similar tax increases with funds earmarked for counter-advertising
campaigns have been adopted in Massachusetts, Arizona, Oregon, and elsewhere.
In addition, part of the funds received by several other American states that
have recently settled lawsuits with the tobacco industry are earmarked for
counter-advertising campaigns. Hu and his colleagues (1994, 1995b) concluded
that California's anti-smoking media campaign has significantly reduced
smoking in California. They estimated an elasticity of cigarette sales with
respect to expenditures on the anti-smoking media campaign of -0.05 ( Hu et
al., 1995c). Comparing the impact of the tax increase with that of the media
campaign, they estimated that the tax increase reduced per capita cigarette
sales by over 27 packs, while sales declined by just under eight packs per
person in response to the media campaign. Early evidence from Massachusetts
suggests a comparable decline in sales after that state's tax-funded antismoking
campaign (Harris et al., 1996). Chaloupka and Grossman (1996)
concluded that similar counter-advertising campaigns financed by earmarked
cigarette taxes lead to significant reductions in both the prevalence of youth
smoking and average cigarette consumption by young smokers.
Econometric evidence from Greece ( Stavrinos, 1987), Finland (Pekurinen,
1989, 1991), Turkey (Tansel, 1993), Australia (Bardsley and Olekalns, 1998),
and the U.K. (Townsend, 1998) indicates that the U.S. experience is not
unique. In each of these studies, mass media campaigns aimed at reducing
cigarette smoking by providing information on the health consequences of
smoking were estimated to have led to significant reductions in smoking
prevalence and in cigarette consumption.
The evidence described above clearly indicates that cigarette demand has
declined in response to dissemination of new information on the health effects
of cigarette smoking. Viscusi (1990, 1991, 1992, 1995) and others have
concluded that individuals have heard and comprehended the health warnings and
are making rational, well-informed choices when it comes to smoking. Indeed,
Economics of Smoking - p. 84
as noted above Viscusi (1992) believes that smokers overestimate the risk of
dying from lung cancer as a result of smoking. As such, he suggested ( Viscusi,
1992, 1995) that the scope for further government intervention to reduce
cigarette smoking is relatively limited. Kenkel (1991), however, concluded
that while knowledge about the health effects of smoking is relatively common
and has significantly reduced smoking, it is incomplete. Moreover, his
estimates implied that improved health knowledge would lead to significant
changes in cigarette smoking, in contrast to his findings for health knowledge
concerning alcohol use and exercise. As was noted earlier, a wealth of
additional evidence further supports the view that, while general knowledge
concerning the health consequences of smoking is relatively widespread, it is
often superficial and does not extend to risks other than those associated
with lung cancer, heart disease, and chronic lung disease (U.S. Department of
Health and Human Services, 1989). Further, many smokers, particularly
including heavy smokers, do not personalize the health risks that they
acknowledge as applying to smokers "in general" ( Schoenbaum, 1997). Warner et
al. (1995), Brownson et al. (1992), Grossman et al. (forthcoming), and others
argue that some populations, particularly younger and less educated/low-income
groups, significantly understate the health consequences of smoking; for
example, children in particular may be prone to underestimate the risk of
5.2 Restrictions on cigarette smoking
As information on the health consequences of exposure to environmental
tobacco smoke (ETS) has become more widespread (U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services, 1986; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 1992; Steenland,
1992; Steenland et al., 1996), governments at all levels have adopted policies
limiting smoking in public places and private workplaces. Beginning with
Arizona in 1973, states started adopting "clean indoor air" laws with the
explicit objective of limiting nonsmokers' exposure to ETS (U.S. Department of
Economics of Smoking - p. 85
Health and Human Services, 1986). In general, these laws prohibit smoking in
elevators, health care facilities, public transportation, indoor cultural and
recreational facilities, government buildings, public meeting rooms, schools,
shopping malls, and retail stores. The most extensive laws also include
restaurants and private workplaces. A recent World Health Organization (1997)
survey of tobacco control policies in 134 countries indicated that the vast
majority of countries now have some form of restriction on smoking in public
Although the restrictions are primarily intended t o reduce nonsmokers'
exposure to ETS, they can also lead to significant reductions in cigarette
smoking since they reduce the smoker's opportunities to smoke or otherwise
raise the "cost" of smoking. This is particularly true for adult smokers
restricted from smoking at the workplace. In addition, restrictions on
smoking may alter the perceived norms related to smoking by changing attitudes
concerning the social acceptability of smoking (U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services, 1994).
A number of recent econometric and other studies have examined the
impact of smoking restrictions on cigarette demand in the U.S. and elsewhere
(Wasserman et al., 1991; Chaloupka, 1992; Chaloupka and Saffer, 1992; Keeler
et al., 1993; Chaloupka and Grossman, 1996; Evans et al., 1996; Chaloupka and
Wechsler, 1997; Chaloupka and Pacula, 1998a, 1998b; Ohsfeldt et al., 1998;
Bardsley and Olekalns, 1998; Townsend, 1998). In general, restrictions on
smoking in public places and private workplaces have been found to reduce both
smoking prevalence and average daily cigarette consumption among smokers.
Wasserman et al. (1991) estimated that expanding smoking restrictions from
those limiting smoking in a small number of relatively minor public places
(elevators, waiting rooms, etc.) to more comprehensive restrictions, including
restaurants and private workplaces, would reduce overall per capita smoking by
almost 6%. Similarly, Chaloupka and Grossman (1996) and Chaloupka and
Wechsler (1997) concluded that strong restrictions on smoking significantly
Economics of Smoking - p. 86
reduce both smoking prevalence and average daily cigarette consumption for
youth and young adults, respectively.
Using annual state-level data for 1975-1985, Chaloupka and Saffer (1992)
examined the possibility that smoking restrictions are endogenous. They found
that states with the strongest restrictions, those with limits on smoking in
private workplaces, were also the states in which anti-smoking sentiment was
relatively high and smoking was relatively low. After accounting for this,
Chaloupka and Saffer concluded that the strongest restrictions had no impact
on cigarette demand. However, they did find that relatively comprehensive
restrictions on smoking in public places (those including restaurants in
addition to a number of other public places) significantly reduced smoking
even after accounting for their potential endogeneity. In a more recent
analysis of this issue, using data from the September 1992, January 1993, and
May 1993 tobacco use supplements to the Current Population Survey, Ohsfeldt et
al. (1998) concluded that the strongest restrictions on smoking lead to
significant reductions in smoking prevalence, after accounting for their
Evans and colleagues (1996) examined whether workplace restr ictions led
to self-selection, with nonsmokers attracted to worksites at which smoking was
not permitted and smokers seeking out worksites permitting smoking. Using
data from the 1991 and 1993 National Health Interview Surveys, the authors
examined self-reported information on whether or not workers were in firms
that had policies restricting smoking. If the respondent answered
affirmatively, more detailed information on the policies was collected. Evans
et al. estimated the impact of the restrictions on cigarette demand in a
simultaneous equations model that allows for individuals to self-select
worksites based on their smoking status and smoking policies. The authors
found that, after accounting for workers' potential self-selection, smoking
bans diminished the probability of adult smoking by 5%, while reducing average
daily cigarette consumption among smokers by 10%. As such, the authors
Economics of Smoking - p. 87
concluded that recent declines in smoking among workers relative to nonworkers
in the U.S. can be attributed to the growing number of workplace bans
5.3 Limits on youth access to tobacco products
According to the World Health Organization (1997), 43 countries ban the
sale of cigarettes to minors, typically by establishing a minimum legal
purchase age for cigarettes and restricting the distribution of free samples
of to underage youth. The non-economics literature provides mixed evidence on
the effectiveness of these youth access limits. A few studies have found that
raising retailer compliance with the minimum age laws reduces the prevalence
of youth smoking (Jason et al., 1996; Forster et al., 1998). Others, however,
have found little impact on youth smoking, even with high compliance by
retailers (Rigotti et al., 1998). A few recent econometric analyses have
examined the impact of these limits on youth tobacco use in the U.S.,
generally finding little or no impact on youth cigarette smoking and other
tobacco use (Wasserman et al., 1991; Chaloupka and Grossman, 1996; Chaloupka
et al., 1997; Chaloupka and Pacula, 1998a). Chaloupka and Grossman (1996)
attributed this to the relatively weak enforcement of these laws.
Chaloupka and Pacula (1998a) examined the impact of enforcement of and
compliance with the limits on youth access on youth smoking using data
collected in a special 1994 survey of state activities related to the Synar
amendment (Downey and Gardiner, 1996). This amendment requires states to
establish minimum purchase ages for tobacco products and to demonstrate that
these laws are being enforced by conducting random, unannounced compliance
checks of retailers selling tobacco products. Failure to do so can lead to
the loss of state block grant funds for substance abuse prevention and
treatment programs. Chaloupka and Pacula's estimates suggest that when the
limits on youth access are comprehensively and aggressively enforced and
highly complied with, they significantly reduce the prevalence of youth
Economics of Smoking - p. 88
6. Agricultural policy and the macroeconomic implications of tobacco
Most of the policy-relevant economic research on tobacco has focused on
the arguments in the cigarette demand function, discussed in the preceding
sections. With a few exceptions, the literature cited has addressed how
policy variables directly influence smoking by individuals. There is another
domain in which economic issues arise and economic analysis has produced
important understanding, however: how policy effects on the economic welfare
of the industry indirectly influence smoking and health. In this section, we
examine the literature pertaining to two such issues, each of which has been
raised in the course of the social debate on the economic and health
consequences of tobacco.
The first involves economic policy intended to benefit the agricultural
sector of the U.S. tobacco industry : how the unorthodox regulation of
domestic tobacco growing in the U.S. affects the price and quantity of tobacco
grown, and through this channel influences the price and consumption of
cigarettes. The tobacco "subsidy" has been a source of contention within the
U.S. public health community for years, with most health professionals
believing that the "subsidy" encourages tobacco growing and thereby smoking.
As economists will appreciate immediately, the direct effect of a tobacco
price support system is the opposite: it discourages smoking by artificially
inflating the price of tobacco in cigarettes. Economic analysis has provided
insight into the extent of this effect, permitting policy analysts to consider
it in the broader context of the overall implications of the price support
The second issue addresses the broad question of how dependent nations'
economies are on preservation of a robust tobacco industry for employment, tax
revenue, and a positive contribution to the trade balance. A central thrust
of the tobacco industry's strategy to combat tobacco control policies has long
Economics of Smoking - p. 89
been to argue that, regardless of the health consequences of its products, the
economic vitality of America (and other countries) depends on a strong tobacco
industry. In recent years, macroeconomic research has been undertaken in
several countries to challenge the premise with empirical evidence.
Prior to addressing these issues, this section opens with background on
both the global and U.S. tobacco industries.
6.1 Size and nature of the tobacco industry
6.1.1 The global industry
In 1983,28 an estimated 47 million people directly owed their
livelihoods, in whole or in part, to tobacco cultivation, product manufacture,
distribution, and retailing (representing 18.2 million full-time equivalent
jobs), with 30 million of these in farming (11 million FTEs), nearly half in
China alone.29 In addition, over 10 million people (8 million FTEs) were
employed in supplier industries, those providing materials and services to the
tobacco industry (e.g., harvesting tools and cigarette papers, insurance
coverage and transportation and shipping) (Agro-Economic Services, 1987).
In the 69 countries included in this evaluation of the global industry
(covering 90% of the world's population), an average of 0.3% of arable land
was devoted to tobacco, although tobacco accounted for 1.3% of full-time
agricultural employment, reflecting the labor intensity of tobacco growing.
Tobacco constituted 1% of total agricultural output, 0.8% of total
manufacturing output, and 3 percent of total retail sales ( Agro-Economic
International trade in tobacco and tobacco products represented 0.5% of
total exports and 0.4% of imports, the difference reflecting a robust
28 We are not aware of any contemporary figures on the size of the global
industry. The data presented here, covering the year 1983, suggest a rough
order-of-magnitude estimate of the industry's importance, albeit one that
likely underrepresents the contemporary industry given that tobacco
consumption has increased worldwide annually since that year.
29 China is the world's largest producer and consumer of cigarettes.
Economics of Smoking - p. 90
international contraband trade ( Agro-Economic Services, 1987) which appears to
have grown considerably in recent years ( Joosens, 1998). For a handful of
countries, tobacco exportation represents an international economic lifeline.
In Zimbabwe, for example, tobacco accounts for approximately one-third of the
country's export revenues (Chapman and Wong, 1990; "Zimbabwe...", 1998).
Tobacco's economic importance worldwide derives also from its use as a
source of governmental revenues. Excise (and other) taxation generates many
tens of billions of dollars annually. Several countries derive 10% or more of
total government revenues from tobacco taxation (Chapman and Wong, 1990).
6.1.2 The U.S. tobacco industry
In 1995, Americans spent $48.7 billion on to bacco products, most of it
on just under 490 billion cigarettes. In addition, U.S. farms and cigarette
companies shipped abroad, respectively, $1.4 billion worth of unmanufactured
tobacco leaf and $5 billion in manufactured product (Gale, 1997).
The five core sectors of the tobacco industry -- tobacco growing,
auction warehousing, product manufacturing, wholesale trade, and retail trade
-- collectively employ up to half a million Americans in tobacco-related
activity (Gale, 1997). Industry activity generates an additional 650,000 to 2
million spin-off jobs, representing purchases from suppliers and spending by
the recipients of incomes from tobacco product sales. 30 In 1992, the
30 Estimates of direct, indirect, and expenditure-induced employment are
taken from several sources, including Warner et al. (1996), Price Waterhouse
(1992), Tobacco Merchants Association (1995), and Gale (1997). The smallest
total employment associated with tobacco industry activity is Gale's estimate
of 1.2 million, although Gale also reported a high estimate of direct
employment (500,000). The largest total employment estimate is that of the
WEFA Group at 3 million jobs, although we believe that this and several other
industry-commissioned estimates rely on improbably large multipliers in
estimating expenditure-induced employment. Reviewing the Price Waterhouse
analysis, Arthur Andersen Economic Consulting (1993) identified what they
believed to be serious methodological flaws and concluded that "employment and
job loss figures are grossly inflated."
Other analysts have suggested that the industry substantially
underestimates employment associated with tobacco, since they fail to include
health care personnel who care for the victims of tobacco-produced diseases,
undertakers who bury them several years earlier than nonsmokers, professional
launderers who clean and repair smokers' clothing more frequently, and so on
Economics of Smoking - p. 91
emotional and political heart of the U.S. industry, tobacco farming, included
124,000 farms on which tobacco was grown in some 20 states. However, just
three states -- North Carolina, Kentucky, and Tennessee -- accounted for 82%
of the 91,000 farms officially designated as tobacco farms (defined by the
U.S. Department of Agriculture as farms on which tobacco accounts for at least
50% of sales). A further three states -- Georgia, South Carolina, and
Virginia -- accounted for an additional 10% of tobacco farms. Collectively,
these six southeastern tobacco states were responsible for a comparable
percentage of tobacco production as well ( Grise, 1995).
Estimating tobacco farm employment is difficult because so few farmers
rely exclusively on tobacco for their full-time economic activity. Employing
the arbitrary assumption that each job is half time (1000 hours), the USDA
estimated the number of tobacco farming jobs in 1995 at 156,000 (i.e., fewer
than 80,000 FTE jobs). The largest employment contribution associated with
tobacco was in the retail sector, however, with an estimated 257,000 jobs
spread all over the country. The other politically "visible" component of the
industry -- workers employed in cigarette manufacturing -- numbered only
25,600. They were concentrated primarily in only three cities in which the
vast majority of U.S. cigarettes are manufactured: Richmond, VA, Winston-
Salem, NC, and Louisville, KY (Gale, 1997).
Although the tobacco farmer is the "heart" of the industry in emotional
and political terms, economically the farmer appears to be little more than a
minor appendage. Domestically-grown tobacco represented only about 2% of the
domestic retail tobacco dollar in 1995, with imported tobaccos constituting
another 1-2%.31 Once one accounts for leases of tobacco-growing quotas, farm
supplies and equipment, overhead, and marketing costs, farm workers actually
took home only about 30% of tobacco farm gross receipts for their labor, under
(Schelling, 1986; Warner, 1987).
31 The tobacco crop value in 1995 was less than $2.6 billion, much of
which was exported as raw leaf or in manufactured cigarettes (Gale, 1997).
Economics of Smoking - p. 92
1% of the nearly $50 billion Americans spent on cigarettes and other tobacco
products. By comparison, the largest share of the tobacco dollar went to
manufacturing (38%), with additional major participants being wholesale and
retail trade (27%) and government, through excise taxation (26%) (Gale, 1997).
Although tobacco growing and cigarette manufacturing might seem like
excellent candidates for a highly competitive marketplace, they do not come
close to conforming to the economist's ideal of the smoothly functioning
unregulated competitive market. The manufacturing industry is characterized
by a high degree of concentration, with two companies, Philip Morris and R.J.
Reynolds, selling three-quarters of all cigarettes purchased in the U.S. and
three others (Brown & Williamson, Lorillard, and Liggett) accounting for the
vast majority of the rest; Philip Morris alone captures half the market (with
one of its brand lines, Marlboro, accounting for more than half of the
company's sales) (Kluger, 1996). Four other companies round out this highly
concentrated oligopoly. Although one can readily imagine barriers to entry
into the cigarette market (e.g., brand-name marketing advantages, distribution
channels, etc.), tobacco farming seems a less obvious domain for
noncompetitive forces. Nonetheless, this purely agricultural endeavor is not
subject to the conventional laws of supply and demand in the U.S. Rather, a
convoluted system of price supports and allotments regulates who can grow
tobacco, where and how much they can grow, and what minimum prices they can
expect at market. The existence of this system, and the concentration of the
industry in the six southeastern states, has been credited with responsibility
for the unusual political power wielded by the six tobacco bloc states in
Congress (Taylor, 1984; Warner, 1988; Gale 1997). We turn now to a
consideration of the nature of this system and its implications for both
tobacco agriculture and smoking and health.
6.2 The impact of the U.S. tobacco agriculture regulatory system
Economics of Smoking - p. 93
6.2.1 Nature of the system and its impact on tobacco farming32
Since the early 1930s, the U.S. federal governme nt has implemented a
variety of tobacco farm programs designed to limit tobacco growing and prop up
tobacco prices. Born of Depression-era concerns about the traumatic effects
on farmers of cyclical prices and the vagaries of the weather, the programs
have ensured stability but also limited innovation in production techniques
and farm size. Although the specifics of the programs have varied over time,
they have shared certain core elements in common : restriction of the supply
of tobacco, by restricting who can grow tobacco and how much they can grow,
and the assurance of minimum prices.
The tobacco farm programs began with the Agricultural Adjustment Act of
1933 through which cash payments were made to tobacco farmers who agreed to
limit production. The Agricultural Act of 1938 established the principle of
marketing quotas, with penalties for growers who exceeded them. Price
supports were originally set at 75% of base-period prices and have varied up
and down since then. The continued existence of the price support system
rested on a vote of tobacco farmers every three years. If two-thirds of the
farmers supported the system, as they have during each vote (with some minor
exceptions), legally enforceable marketing quotas are put in place.
The growers of tobacco, and the acreage they can farm, are limited
through a system of allotments, in essence a license to grow tobacco,
allocated to farms existing at the time the system was established. Under the
first of the allotment programs, only farmers possessing the allotments, or
renting or purchasing land with allotments, could grow tobacco. Since 1962,
however, farmers have been permitted to rent or purchase allotments without
having to use the allotment holder's land, although subject to a number of
restrictions as to type of tobacco and how far the quota could be transported
(e.g., some quotas could be applied only within the county of the allotment
32 This section's description of the tobacco agriculture program is based
on material from Capehart (1997), Grise (1995), and Zhang and Husten (1998).
Economics of Smoking - p. 94
holder). Supplies of tobacco were thus limited through allotments and
marketing quotas, as well as restrictions on imported tobacco. Quotas are
established based on the intended purchases by cigarette manufacturers,
anticipated exports and imports, and the amount of tobacco needed to achieve a
specified level of reserves. The Secretary of Agriculture can further adjust
the quotas by + 3% of the amount determined by formula.
The price support is based on a loan program through which farmers are
guaranteed a pre-specified minimum price. Farmers attempt to sell their
tobacco at auction. If the high bid does not at least match the loan price, a
farmer-owned cooperative purchases the tobacco at that guaranteed price, using
money loaned by the USDA's Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC). The
cooperative stores the tobacco as collateral for the CCC loan. When the
cooperative later resells the tobacco, it forwards the proceeds to the CCC to
cover the loan principal and interest.
Until 1982, general tax revenues were used to cover CCC losses.
Although the amounts of money involved were modest by federal government
program standards (Warner, 1988), the image of taxpayers' subsidizing the
growing of a product that health officials characterized as deadly became
politically untenable. As a result, Congress passed the No-Net-Cost Tobacco
Program Act of 1982 which eliminated the taxpayer subsidy. Since then,
farmers and buyers have paid an assessment per pound of tobacco to cover any
losses in the loan program. The federal government continues to cover the
cost of administering the program, as well as providing a variety of other
services to growers through the USDA. In 1993, the total federal outlay on
these activities was $26 million.
Over time, variations in the tobacco program have modified import
policies and imposed and then removed domestic-content requirements for U.S.
cigarette manufacturers, as well as tinkering with quota determination and
allocation, price support, and so on. For a discussion of specific revisions
of the relevant laws, see Capehart (1997) and Grise (1995).
Economics of Smoking - p. 95
The net effect of the program o n tobacco agriculture has been multifaceted.
It has brought the stability to the tobacco farm economy that it was
designed to ensure. It has restricted domestic tobacco supplies. The program
has clearly restricted tobacco farm size and limited the development of more
capital-intensive methods of tobacco farming; indeed, the growing of tobacco
entails greater labor intensity than for nearly all other U.S. crops. The
program has increased the price of domestic tobaccos and, as a consequence,
the price of cigarettes (discussed below). As a result of boosting prices, it
has likely restrained the amount of raw leaf exportation from the U.S. It has
created an economically entrenched political constituency, the allotment
holders, the principal beneficiaries of the program (Babcock and Foster,
6.2.2 Relevance of the tobacco program to smoking and health
The tobacco program has had two effects directly germane to the issue of
smoking and health, one ostensibly favorable, the other not. By restricting
the supply of tobacco and increasing its price, the program has likely boosted
the price of the finished product, cigarettes, and thereby decreased the
quantity demanded. The extent of this effect -- arguably the less important
of the two (Warner, 1988; Zhang and Husten, 1998) -- has been studied by
economists and is the focal point of this section. In contrast, by allocating
the right to grow tobacco, or to earn money by leasing allotments, to a select
group of citizens in the tobacco southeast, and by ensuring stable and
relatively high prices for farmers, the tobacco program has created a highly
concentrated economic and thus political interest that has long wielded
substantial power within the halls of Congress (Taylor, 1984; Babcock and
Foster, 1992). Long-time observers of both Congress and tobacco concur that
the existence of the tobacco bloc has thwarted the development of effective
tobacco-and-health policies frequently over the past 35 years (Taylor, 1984;
Fritschler and Hoefler, 1996).
Economics of Smoking - p. 96
Whether the consumption-discouraging effects of the increased price of
tobacco or the consumption-encouraging effects of a lack of aggressive federal
tobacco control policy have dominated has been the subject of some informed
speculation but no formal analysis. Having reviewed the evidence, both Warner
(1988) and Zhang and Husten (1998) concluded that the latter was more
important than the former, but in each case this conclusion rested as much on
the finding that the direct effect of the tobacco program on cigarette price
was very small. It is here that economic analysis has provided useful
The economic effects of the tobacco price support program have been the
subject of formal economic analysis for at least three decades (Johnson,
1965). Since the mid-1980s, four analyses have estimated the impact of
abandonment of the tobacco price support program on tobacco supplies and
prices. Using a simultaneous equations model of the supply of and demand for
tobacco and cigarettes, which included the possibility of substitution of
foreign for domestic tobaccos, Sumner and Alston (1985) estimated that
eliminating the program in 1983 would have reduced the price of U.S. tobacco
by 20-30%. The authors estimated an increase in domestic tobacco output of
50-100% or more with supply restrictions ended, with cigarette manufacturers
likely to buy more domestic tobacco and exports likely to double. Reflecting
this expanded output, Sumner and Alston estimated that tobacco growing
revenues would have risen by 15-60% despite the price decrease. Because
domestic tobacco represented under 10% of the retail price of cigarettes, the
authors concluded that the price support program boosted the retail price of
cigarettes by no more than 3%.34 Employing a price elasticity of demand of -
33 This analysis has been particularly useful simply to help correct the
misimpression of the lay public that the tobacco price support program, or the
"tobacco subsidy," as it is more commonly referred to, has directly encouraged
smoking by encouraging tobacco growing. The public has not generally
appreciated that, to the contrary, the program has limited the quantities of
tobacco grown and brought to market.
34 Sumner and Alston (1985) assumed that tobacco price increases
attributable to the price support system would be fully passed on to retail
Economics of Smoking - p. 97
0.3, they estimated that the direct effect of the price support program was to
decrease the demand for cigarettes by about 1%. A decade later, economists at
the USDA produced a similar if less detailed analysis that supported Sumner
and Alston's findings. Grise (1995) concluded that the price support program
raised domestic tobacco prices by 30-40%. He estimated that this tobacco
price effect raised cigarette prices by 1-2%.
Still more recently, researchers at the federal Office on Sm oking and
Health (OSH) in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed
contemporary data and determined that the price support program increased
tobacco prices by 18-23% (Zhang et al., 1997). In contrast with the early
1980s, domestic tobacco accounted for only 3% of cigarette retail price in
1991. This decline in the domestic tobacco farm value share of retail
cigarette value reflected several developments pertaining to the amount and
price of domestic tobaccos. First, the amount of tobacco employed in
manufacturing a given number of cigarettes has declined significantly since
the 1980s, as it has since well before then (from the early 1950s to the
present, the amount of tobacco per cigarette has declined by over a third
(Congressional Research Service, 1994)). This has resulted from reduced
wastage, in part as a consequence of new production technologies that allow
manufacturers to blend in parts of the tobacco plant previously discarded,
such as tobacco stems, and to expand the volume of tobacco per unit of weight
(called "puffing"). It also reflects a shift in demand from relatively largebarreled
cigarettes, some unfiltered, to filtered and small-diameter
A second reason for the decline in the domestic tobacco share of the
consumers. This is a reasonable assumption. Although the evidence is mixed,
most previous research has characterized the tobacco industry as a constantcost
industry. Research has also demonstrated that the industry has exploited
its oligopolistic character with a strong price-leadership model, passing on
more than 100% of federal excise tax increases (Harris, 1987). A recent study
concluded that the industry engages in a minor amount of price discrimination
by state, passing along slightly more than states' excise tax increases
(Keeler et al., 1996). Obviously, the permeability of state borders limits
the extent of such price discrimination.
Economics of Smoking - p. 98
cigarette dollar is manufacturers' increasing reliance on less expensive
imported tobaccos. At various times, as much as a third or more of the
tobacco in U.S. cigarettes has been imported. From 1980 to 1991, for example,
the imported tobacco share rose from 29% to 35%. More recently, the share of
imported tobaccos quickly decreased and then increased. 35 The 1993 Omnibus
Budget Reconciliation Act (OBRA) included a provision requiring that 75% of
the tobacco in U.S.-manufactured cigarettes be domestically grown. Shortly
after the domestic content provision was implemented, it was determined to be
inconsistent with the requirements of the General Agreement on Tariffs and
Trade (GATT). It was replaced in September 1995 by a complicated tariff-rate
quota (TRQ) designed to restrict imports but to conform to GATT
A third factor in the declining share of cigarette expenditures
attributable to domestic tobacco has been the stability of tobacco prices
compared to more rapidly inflating prices for the manufactured product. From
1980 to 1991, the farm price of tobacco rose only 18%. During the same
period, cigarette price increased 187%.
Accounting for the reduced role of domestic tobacco in cigarette price,
Zhang and colleagues concluded that the tobacco price support program likely
increased the retail price of cigarettes by no more than 1%. To assess the
impact on smoking, the researchers employed a more recent estimate of the
price elasticity of demand for cigarettes and then allocated half of the price
response to decisions of whether or not to smoke and the other half to number
35 Imported and domestic tobaccos are not perfect substitutes. Tobaccos
come in numerous varieties, each with its own characteristics, and soil and
weather conditions combine to alter those characteristics from one growing
location to another. As a consequence, the world price of tobacco does not
necessarily reflect the marginal price. Some American-grown tobaccos, prized
by cigarette manufacturers, can command a higher-than-average price on world
36 The TRQ imposes quotas on imported tobaccos by exporting country, with
imports above quota levels subject to a 350% ad valorem duty. However, most
of the duty is refunded if the excess imported tobacco is included in
cigarettes made in the U.S. for export.
Economics of Smoking - p. 99
of cigarettes per day per continuing smoker. Given these assumptions, they
estimated that the direct effect of the tobacco price support program was to
decrease the number of smokers by 0.14%. As such, they concluded that the
beneficial effect of the price support program, from a public health point of
view, was very modest at best.37
In the most recent attempt to evaluate the implications of the tobacco
price support system, Brown (1998) examined a mix of likely provisions in
comprehensive federal tobacco control legislation that would directly affect
domestic tobacco growing. Combining the effects of eliminating the price
support program with adoption of a $1.50 per pack federal cigarette excise tax
increase, he predicted a long-run decline in tobacco leaf price of 20-30%, not
inconsistent with the OSH estimates, which did not incorporate an excise tax
The consistency of the findings from these studies provid es strong
support for the conclusion that the direct effect of the U.S. tobacco price
support program on discouraging smoking, by virtue of raising cigarette
prices, is very small.
6.3 The contribution of the tobacco industry to the economy
6.3.1 States and nations
Since the late 1970s, the U.S. tobacco industry has commissioned
numerous prominent economics consulting firms to produce estimates of the
industry's contributions to employment, incomes, and tax revenues for the
country as a whole, the individual states, and occasionally specific cities
and counties (Wharton Applied Research Center, 1979; Chase Econometrics, 1985;
37 The authors' assumptions are subject to challenge. In particular, as
indicated earlier in this chapter, most of the research on cigarette price
elasticities to date suggests that the dominant effect of increasing prices on
adult consumption is to lower daily cigarette consumption for continuing
smokers, rather than decrease smoking prevalence. The OSH authors' estimate
of the impact on numbers of smokers is so small, however, that alternative
assumptions will not alter the qualitative conclusion that the impact on
smoking is very small.
Economics of Smoking - p. 100
Price Waterhouse, 1990, 1992; Tobacco Merchants Association, 1995; American
Economics Group, 1996b). When tobacco control policy measures have been under
consideration by legislative bodies, industry representatives have used the
findings from these analyses to try to convince legislators that adoption of
the policy would inflict economic damage on the state's or nation's citizens,
in particular by causing widespread loss of jobs (Warner, 1987). In a few
instances, the industry's consultants have observed in their formal written
reports to their clients that alternative spending patterns would generate
compensating employment (Chase Econometrics, 1985; American Economics Group,
1996a)38. When meeting with legislators, however, the industry's
representatives have never mentioned this.
That the decline or demise of one economic activity would be replaced by
alternative economic activity, each of which would eventually produce
comparable national levels of employment, is obvious to economists. The
compensating benefits of replacement economic activities are not generally
contemplated by the lay public, however. As such, legislators, journalists,
and other members of the public are susceptible to the industry's argument
that reduced purchase of tobacco products will lead to substantial economic
dislocation, and that such dislocation exacts a high price from communities.
The industry has used its estimates in two ways: to indicate the overall
significance of tobacco in the economies of the states and the nation as a
whole; and to make projections of lost jobs and tax revenues that would result
from the adoption of specific tobacco control policy measures.
To respond to this argument, economists have performed macroeconomic
analyses that essentially complete the analysis initiated by the industry's
38 In the most telling example of this, buried in chapter V of volume 1 of
the detailed technical report prepared by analysts at Chase Econometrics
(1985) is the acknowledgment that money not spent on tobacco products would be
reallocated to other spending, and that nationwide (combining tobacco and
nontobacco states), the economic results with and without tobacco "would be
substantially the same." The report authors explicitly observed that
compensatory responses to the absence of tobacco spending "that would occur
automatically within the Chase Econometrics Macroeconomic Model...were
constrained from taking place within [the firm's] analysis."
Economics of Smoking - p. 101
consultants. Where the industry-sponsored studies estimate the gross economic
contribution of tobacco -- the numbers of jobs, earnings, taxes paid -- the
independent studies estimate the net contribution, i.e., the benefit of
tobacco-related economic activity after one considers the implications of
redistribution of the same resources to alternative uses. Researchers at the
University of Michigan employed the REMI Model (Regional Economic Models,
Inc.) (Treyz, 1993) to estimate how both declining tobacco consumption and the
complete elimination of tobacco consumption would affect employment in the
state of Michigan (Warner and Fulton, 1994) and in the principal regional
economies of the U.S., as defined by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis
(BEA) (Warner et al., 1996). The study of the effects on Michigan was
intended to demonstrate how declining tobacco consumption impacts the economy
of a nontobacco state, since nontobacco states comprise the large majority of
U.S. states and they have often been the targets of the industry's economic
argument. The study of the regional economies of the U.S. was intended to
contrast effects within the southeast tobacco-state region (consisting of half
the 12 states in the BEA's southeast region) with implications for the 8
nontobacco regions (one, "southeast nontobacco," consisting of the six
nontobacco states in the BEA's southeast region).
To illustrate the procedure (the basics of which were conceptually
identical for the two studies), in the regional analysis the researchers first
generated a baseline forecast of the economies of each of the 9 regions for
the years 1993 to 2000, assuming no changes in the expected pattern of
spending on tobacco (which included an expected annual decline in consumption,
based on the trend in the decade preceding the period of the simulation). The
eight-year period selected for the simulation was intended to permit analysis
of dynamic short- and medium-run impacts on the regional economies. To
evaluate the gross contribution of tobacco to employment, analogous to what
the industry's consultants have done, the researchers then generated an
alternative forecast in which all of the expected spending on tobacco was
Economics of Smoking - p. 102
removed from the baseline forecast. Comparison of the two forecasts, with and
without tobacco spending, permitted assessment of the amount of employment
associated with tobacco spending, by region, economic sector, and year. To
estimate the net employment implications resulting from consumers devoting
their former tobacco expenditures to other goods and services, the analysts
reallocated this amount according to consumers' normal spending patterns, with
tobacco excluded. Net employment was estimated by comparing the employment
projections in the baseline simulation with those from the simulation in which
tobacco spending is reallocated to other goods and services.
To examine the implications of a more realistic scenario which might be
expected if effective tobacco control policy measures were adopted, namely an
increasing rate of decline in tobacco product consumption, the researchers
assumed that the recent historical rate of decline would double. The
simulations were repeated with the appropriate amount of tobacco spending
removed (gross model) and reinjected into the alternative goods and services
In the first study, Warner and Fulton (1994) demonstr ated that in a
nontobacco state, declining spending on tobacco products would increase the
state's employment, and that this effect would persist over several years.
The finding reflected the fact that tobacco products represent imports for
Michigan (and other nontobacco states). Since some of the reallocated
spending would be devoted to goods and services produced within the state,
more state spending would recycle within Michigan, thereby producing more
Michigan-based jobs. Although this is obvious to economists, it represented a
revelation to many noneconomists in the policy community.
In the second study (Warner et al., 1996), the researchers found that
with either a decline or the complete elimination of domestic tobacco
spending, each of the eight nontobacco regions would gain employment during
the period studied, while the southeast tobacco region would lose employment.
The study further demonstrated that the losses within the tobacco region
Economics of Smoking - p. 103
would be considerably smaller than those suggested by the industry's analyses,
which again have never included the effects of alternative spending, which
would benefit the tobacco states as well as the nontobacco states. One of the
study's most important conclusions was that plausible declines in tobacco
consumption would have exceedingly small impacts on employment even in the
southeast tobacco region. Under the more realistic scenario, the estimated
loss of 36,600 jobs in the region by the year 2000 would amount to only 0.2%
of regional employment.
Similar analyses have been performed in other countries. The idea was
first introduced by Allen (1993) in a qualitative consideration of the
economic implications of the tobacco industry in Canada. Subsequently, Buck
and colleagues (1995) used an input-output model to study the employment
implications of tobacco in the United Kingdom. Most recently, van der Merwe
(1998b) evaluated the same issue in South Africa. Despite variations in basic
methods (e.g., input-output vs. dynamic models) and more specific assumptions
(most notably, the nature of the alternative spending pattern), all of these
studies have arrived at the same conclusion : spending on tobacco does not
generate greater employment for the country in question than would alternative
The tobacco industry's consultants report on other industry-related
impacts in addition to employment. The two most important are the tax
revenues generated by spending on tobacco and the positive contribution of
tobacco to certain countries' trade balances. No non-industry analysis has
attempted to evaluate the net effects of reductions in tobacco spending on
these two variables. The results are obvious, however. For most countries,
reductions in tobacco spending would produce reductions in government
revenues, reflecting the fact that cigarettes, unlike most other products, are
subject to excise taxation. Thus, governments that succeed in reducing tobacco
consumption through tobacco control policies generally will need to seek
alternative sources of revenue to replace those lost due to declining tobacco
Economics of Smoking - p. 104
product sales. The one exception, of course, is a sales reduction occasioned
by an increase in an excise tax. In this instance, as is discussed earlier in
the chapter, government revenues will rise at the same time that consumption
Reductions in spending on tobacco could adversely affect the balance of
payments in those countries in which exports of tobacco and tobacco products
exceed imports. However, tobacco exports play a truly central role in the
balance of payments in only a handful of countries; most notably, Zimbabwe
relies on tobacco for approximately a third of its foreign exchange earnings
(Chapman and Wong, 1990; "Zimbabwe...", 1998). In contrast to the net
exporters, in countries in which tobacco product imports exceed exports,
decreasing consumption could improve the trade balance (Warner and Fulton,
6.3.2 Tobacco farm communities
As the regional analysis of the U.S. demonstrated, reductions in tobacco
product sales can harm the economies of specific areas of countries highly
dependent on tobacco economic activity. That analysis also demonstrated,
however, that plausible policy-induced decreases in tobacco consumption would
have extremely modest effects on employment within the United States' major
tobacco region (Warner et al., 1996).
Less clear, however, and likely more important from both a political and
humanitarian point of view, is the impact of declining tobacco sales on the
local communities that are most heavily dependent on tobacco farming or
product manufacture. In the popular mind in the U.S., large numbers of
counties in North Carolina, Kentucky, and the four other tobacco states are
virtually wholly dependent on tobacco farming. 39 Substantial decreases in
39 Because, compared with tobacco growing, cigarette manufacturing
involves many fewer, higher paid workers whose employment is concentrated in
three economically diversified cities, public sympathy resides more with the
farmers. The remainder of this section focuses exclusively on tobacco farming
Economics of Smoking - p. 105
tobacco product sales would, it is widely believed, wreak havoc with these
communities' economies. Sympathy with this view has led to the inclusion of
significant benefits to tobacco farmers in all of the comprehensive tobacco
control legislative proposals under consideration by the U.S. Congress in
According to work by agricultural economists, however, the image
distorts a more benign reality. Relatively few tobacco counties in the U.S.
are so dependent on tobacco that plausible policy-induced decreases in tobacco
consumption would inflict serious economic hardship. Indeed, Gale (1998)
stated recently that he expects merely a continuation of the kinds of economic
adjustments that tobacco farmers have been making for decades; and, he
observed, tobacco farm communities today have more diversified economies upon
which to draw in making those adjustments than in years gone by. He
summarized the essence of the situation by noting, "Tobacco has an important
historical role in many Southern communities. Today, however, tobacco plays a
minor economic role in most local economies where it is grown" (p. 43).
That the importance of tobacco farming within the tobacco belt states
has diminished substantially is made clear by data supplied by the Economic
Research Service (ERS) of the USDA. From 1964 to 1993, the number of tobacco
farms declined from 330,000 to 124,000. 40 Domestic consumption of
domestically-produced tobaccos has declined from 1.6 billion pounds in 1952 to
900 million pounds in 1993. Adjusted for inflation, the value of domestically
grown tobacco has fallen.
For most tobacco farmers, tobacco growing represents only part-time,
seasonal work. Further, most tobacco farms are small, with over 70% having
annual gross sales of less than $20,000. Nearly two-thirds of farm operators
40 The decline in the number of farms is not matched by declining acreage
devoted to tobacco. During the most recent six years for which data are
available, the number of farms fell from 179,000 to 124,000, but acreage
increased from 587,000 to 745,000 acres. This trend toward larger farms,
permitted by relaxation of some of the stricter limitations of the quota
system, would greatly accelerate were the price support program ended.
Economics of Smoking - p. 106
work off of their farms, as well as on them, with 42% working off-farm at
full-time jobs (Gale, 1998). Also telling are data indicating that the share
of income from all farming, not just tobacco, in tobacco counties fell from 5%
in the early 1970s to well under 2% today. The ERS classifies counties as
"farm dependent" if earnings from all farming constitute at least a fifth of
the county's total earnings. By this definition, there were only 27 "farm
dependent" tobacco counties in the U.S. in the mid-1990s, out of 424 tobacco
counties.41 And among these farm dependent tobacco counties, only one derives
a majority of its farm receipts from tobacco. The next four most tobaccodependent
derive 25-35% of their farm earnings from tobacco, while the
remaining 22 counties each receives less than 5% of its farm earnings from
tobacco sales. Most tobacco counties are not classified as "farm dependent."
Across all tobacco counties, the USDA estimates that tobacco sales account
for approximately a fifth of total farm receipts. However, there are a number
of counties on the North Carolina-Virginia border and in eastern Kentucky in
which tobacco's share of farm sales exceeds 70%.
To put the role of tobacco into perspective, USDA calc ulates the ratio
of tobacco gross receipts to total proprietor and labor income within a
county. By this measure, almost half of tobacco counties (199) have a
tobacco-income ratio of less than 0.01. Only 33 counties have a ratio
exceeding 0.1 (Gale, 1998). USDA also calculates an index of a tobacco
county's ability to replace tobacco income through economic growth in other
sectors. The index measures the ratio of annual growth in inflation-adjusted
local personal income from all sources to tobacco gross receipts. USDA
interprets an index value exceeding 1.0 as meaning that the county is creating
sufficient new economic opportunities to potentially completely replace
tobacco income. Approximately half of all tobacco counties have index values
greater than 1.0 (Gale, 1997).
41 A tobacco county is a county in which tobacco is grown for commercial
Economics of Smoking - p. 107
All told, the evidence indicates that America's tobacco farming
communities are far less dependent on tobacco than is widely believed. That
abrupt declines in tobacco consumption would inflict severe economic pain on
selected individuals is almost certainly true; that many others would
experience temporary economic dislocation is certainly possible. The notion,
however, that realistic policy-induced decreases in tobacco consumption would
wreak havoc throughout much of the tobacco belt is simply not consistent with
the evidence. Appeals to the welfare of tobacco farmers may resonate
politically; but economically they appear to have little justification. 42
Indeed, the major economic losers would be the allotment holders, a less
politically-appealing group of people.
In the complicated ethical, social, and political domain of tobacco
policy, economic analysis has introduced a base of objective and increasingly
sophisticated knowledge into debates in which rhetoric has often dominated.
Particularly with regard to the crucial issue of how price influences the
demand for tobacco products, and how taxation affects price, economists have
contributed empirically-based insights that, in many instances, have played
essential roles in guiding the formulation of tobacco control policy. Indeed,
it is no exaggeration to credit the work of economists with the contemporary
global interest in using tobacco taxation as perhaps the primary tool of
tobacco control policy.
In the process of examining the empirical relationship between tobacco
price and consumption, economists have contributed to the evolving theoretical
and methodological literature on the effects of addiction on consumer demand.
A "problem" in the traditional economic model of rational economic behavior,
addiction is now receiving the attention that promises important future
42 In the absence of data on the economic vitality of tobacco-growing
regions in other countries, these conclusions cannot be extended to tobacco
farm communities outside of the U.S.
Economics of Smoking - p. 108
contributions of both a conceptual and empirical nature. Public health policy
making will be enriched in the process.
In addition to addressing issues of taxation, price, and demand,
economic research has also offered important understanding of the effects of
other tobacco policy measures, ranging from media counteradvertising to the
introduction of restrictions on smoking in public places. The work of
economists has lent perspective to emotional issues in debates on tobacco
policy, such as the implications of tobacco control for employment both inside
and outside of tobacco-dependent regions of states and countries.
In other areas, economics researc h has been less successful in answering
policy questions. A notable example involves the politically central issue of
whether cigarette advertising increases consumption, and whether ad bans
decrease it. Econometric research has contributed empirical evidence to the
debate, but without offering much by way of resolution. In part this reflects
limitations inherent in econometric methods; in part it reflects the
inadequacy of the data needed to quantify "advertising" (and exposure to it)
and evaluate its consequences. Recent work on the impacts of national
advertising bans, both partial and complete, shows promise but is decidedly in
In addition to having enlightened debates on tobacco policy, economic
analysis of smoking serves a broader purpose as well, one not examined in the
present chapter. Constituting by far the largest body of economic research on
the consumption of addictive substances, utilizing the best data available,
economic research on smoking informs both research and policy debates on other
addictive substances (Warner et al., 1990; Warner, 1991). This is
particularly important in the case of illicit drugs, such as marijuana and
cocaine, for which the availability of useful data has been severely
constrained. More generally, understanding the economics of tobacco lends
insight into a whole host of social, political, and economic issues, such as
the political economy of product regulation and the relationship between, and
Economics of Smoking - p. 109
even meaning of, consumer sovereignty and paternalism.
The use of tobacco, and particularly cigarette smoking, constitutes one
of the great public health plagues of the latter half of the 20th century, one
sure to define much of global health status far into the 21st century as well.
As such, it is critical to understand the determinants of tobacco use,
perhaps especially those that can be addressed by public policy. Using the
conventional tools of their trade, often in novel and creative ways,
economists have been at the forefront of advancing knowledge in this central
area of public health. The impressive body of work described in this chapter
augers a bright future for the contribution of economics to grappling with
what will soon become the leading cause of disease and death worldwide.
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