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The Heterogeneous Geographic and Socioeconomic Incidence of Cigarette Taxes: Evidence from Nielsen Homescan Data

Matthew Harding, Ephraim Leibtag and Michael F. Lovenheim
American Economic Journal: Economic Policy
Vol. 4, No. 4 (November 2012), pp. 169-198
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23358249
Page Count: 30
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The Heterogeneous Geographic and Socioeconomic Incidence of Cigarette Taxes: Evidence from Nielsen Homescan Data
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Abstract

We use Nielsen Homescan data to examine who bears the economic burden of cigarette taxes. We find cigarette taxes are less than fully passed through to consumer prices, suggesting consumers and producers split the excess burden of these taxes. Using information on consumer location, we show the availability of lower-tax goods across state borders creates significant differences in the pass-through rate. Tax avoidance opportunities also have a sizable effect on purchasing behavior by altering consumer search, prices paid and quantities purchased. Finally, we demonstrate that the incidence of cigarette taxes and the border effect varies by household income and education.

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