Cigarette taxes and older adult smoking: evidence from recent large tax increases

J Health Econ. 2008 Jul;27(4):918-929. doi: 10.1016/j.jhealeco.2007.11.005. Epub 2007 Nov 29.


While recent evidence casts some doubt, it is generally accepted that the price sensitivity of smoking varies inversely with age. We investigate the responsiveness of older adult smoking using variation from recent historically large cigarette tax increases in the United States. Using data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System from 2000 to 2005, we find consistent evidence that higher taxes reduced smoking participation by older adults, especially those who are less educated and live in low-income households. Our findings run contrary to existing evidence which suggests that cessation behavior by older adults is not sensitive to price. Since a large literature suggests smoking cessation even later in life reduces morbidity and increases longevity, our findings may represent substantial gains in health among tax-induced quitters.

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Smoking / economics*
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Taxes / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • United States / epidemiology