E-Cigarettes and Adult Smoking: Evidence from Minnesota

J Risk Uncertain. 2020 Jun;60(3):207-228. doi: 10.1007/s11166-020-09326-5. Epub 2020 Jul 16.


E-cigarettes provide nicotine in a vapor form, which is considered less harmful than the smoke from combustible cigarettes because it does not contain the toxins that are found in tobacco smoke. E-cigarettes may be effective in helping smokers to quit or they might simply provide smokers a method of bypassing smoking restrictions. There is very little causal evidence to date on how e-cigarette use impacts smoking cessation among adults. Minnesota was the first to impose a tax on e-cigarettes. This tax provides a plausibly exogenous deterrent to e-cigarette use. We utilize data from the Current Population Survey Tobacco Use Supplements from 1992 to 2015 to assess how the Minnesota tax increase impacted smoking cessation among adult smokers. Estimates suggest that the e-cigarette tax increased adult smoking and reduced smoking cessation in Minnesota, relative to the control group, and imply a cross elasticity of current smoking participation with respect to e-cigarette prices of 0.13. Our results suggest that in the sample period about 32,400 additional adult smokers would have quit smoking in Minnesota in the absence of the tax. If this tax were imposed on a national level about 1.8 million smokers would be deterred from quitting in a ten year period. The taxation of e-cigarettes at the same rate as cigarettes could deter more than 2.75 million smokers nationally from quitting in the same period. The public health benefits of not taxing e-cigarettes, however, must be weighed against effects of this decision on efforts to reduce vaping by youth.