High-resolution behavioral economic analysis of cigarette demand to inform tax policy

Addiction. 2012 Dec;107(12):2191-200. doi: 10.1111/j.1360-0443.2012.03991.x. Epub 2012 Jul 30.


Aims: Novel methods in behavioral economics permit the systematic assessment of the relationship between cigarette consumption and price. Towards informing tax policy, the goals of this study were to conduct a high-resolution analysis of cigarette demand in a large sample of adult smokers and to use the data to estimate the effects of tax increases in 10 US States.

Design: In-person descriptive survey assessment.

Setting: Academic departments at three universities.

Participants: Adult daily smokers (i.e. more than five cigarettes/day; 18+ years old; ≥8th grade education); n = 1056.

Measurements: Estimated cigarette demand, demographics, expired carbon monoxide.

Findings: The cigarette demand curve exhibited highly variable levels of price sensitivity, especially in the form of 'left-digit effects' (i.e. very high price sensitivity as pack prices transitioned from one whole number to the next; e.g. $5.80-6/pack). A $1 tax increase in the 10 states was projected to reduce the economic burden of smoking by an average of $530.6 million (range: $93.6-976.5 million) and increase gross tax revenue by an average of 162% (range: 114-247%).

Conclusions: Tobacco price sensitivity is non-linear across the demand curve and in particular for pack-level left-digit price transitions. Tax increases in US states with similar price and tax rates to the sample are projected to result in substantial decreases in smoking-related costs and substantial increases in tax revenues.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Carbon Monoxide / analysis
  • Commerce
  • Consumer Behavior
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Public Policy / economics
  • Smoking / economics*
  • Smoking / psychology
  • Smoking Prevention
  • Taxes / economics*
  • Tobacco Products / economics*
  • Tobacco Products / statistics & numerical data
  • United States
  • Young Adult


  • Carbon Monoxide