Background: Over one fourth of the California population was Latino in 1999, and by 2015 Latinos are expected to be the single largest ethnic group in California. Patterns of smoking and nicotine dependence among Latino smokers may be quite different from those of smokers in other ethnic groups. In addition, Latino smokers may be more sensitive to cigarette prices. Therefore, the effect of an increase in cigarette excise taxes on Latino smoking prevalence may be quite large, and consequently the impact on Latino health may be proportionately greater than on population health in general.
Methods: We simulated changes in Latino smoking, morbidity, mortality, and quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) that would result from a range of actual and proposed cigarette excise-tax increases using a range of cigarette price-elasticity estimates specific to Latino smokers. Monte Carlo simulation was used to generate confidence intervals.
Results: Assuming a Latino price elasticity of demand for cigarettes of -1.0, reductions in Latino smoking resulting from an additional $0.50/pack tax would produce nearly 3000 Latino QALYs in California in 1999. Greater benefits would accrue each year, until a steady state relative to population size is reached 75 years after the program is initiated.
Conclusions: If Latino smokers are more responsive to changes in cigarette prices than other smokers, Latino smokers also stand to gain a disproportionate share of the health benefit from an excise tax increase.