Playing with Fire: Cigarettes, Taxes and Competition from the Internet
42 Pages Posted: 28 Dec 2009 Last revised: 28 Feb 2021
Date Written: December 2009
This paper documents the rise of the Internet as a source of state-tax-free cigarettes and its impact on taxed sales elasticities. Using data on cigarette tax rates, taxable cigarette sales and individual smoking rates by state from 1980 to 2005 merged with data on Internet penetration, the paper documents that there has been a substantial increase in the sensitivity of taxable cigarette sales to state tax rates that is correlated with the rise of Internet usage within states. The estimates imply that the increased sensitivity from cigarette smuggling over the Internet has lessened the revenue generating potential of cigarette tax increases significantly, although states are still far from the revenue-maximizing tax rates.
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