Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Report of the Tobacco Policy Research Study Group on Tobacco Pricing and Taxation in the United States
  1. David Sweanor,
  2. Scott Ballin,
  3. Ruth D Corcoran,
  4. Alan Davis,
  5. Karen Deasy,
  6. Roberta G Ferrence,
  7. Rhona Lahey,
  8. Sal Lucido,
  9. W James Nethery,
  10. Jeffrey Wasserman
  1. Non-Smokers’ Rights Association, Ottawa, Canada
  2. Office of Public Affairs, American Heart Association, Washington, DC
  3. American Cancer Society, Washington, DC
  4. Office on Smoking and Health, Centers for Disease Control, Washington, DC
  5. Atlanta, Georgia
  6. Department of Preventive Medicine and Biostatistics, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
  7. Canadian Cancer Society, Toronto, Canada
  8. Western Medical Center, Santa Ana, California
  9. Systematics, McGraw Hill, Santa Barbara, California
  1. Correspondence to Mr David Sweanor, Non-Smokers’ Rights Association, 124 O’Connor, Suite 300, Ottawa, Ontario KIP 5M9, Canada.

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.

It is widely recognised that tobacco taxes are a potent device to decrease tobacco consumption. In the United States, however, tobacco taxes have fallen, after adjustment for inflation, since the first Surgeon General’s report was issued in 1964 in which the US government acknowledged the link between tobacco and disease. The proportion of pack price accounted for by tax has decreased by nearly half since 1964. Indeed, there have been only two increases in the federal tobacco tax since 1950.

These facts produce a startling enigma. Despite major progress on other issues of tobacco control, the United States has the lowest taxes on tobacco of any major industrial country, although it is the richest such country.

This report provides background on issues of tobacco pricing and taxation, and considers research needs to further understand the potential for increases in excise tax to limit cigarette consumption. It also delineates the research needed to advance the acceptance of increased excise taxes as a key policy for tobacco control. Although this report deals specifically with pricing and taxation in the United States, similar, if not identical, questions arise for most nations.


Increased affordability of tobacco

Many elements determine the amount of tobacco consumption in a given population. Perhaps the most important is the affordability of tobacco products, which is influenced by both the price of these products and the income of the potential purchasers. The price of tobacco products is, in turn, determined by the manufacturers’ price, wholesale and retail markups, tobacco taxes, and sales taxes. Clearly, although consumer income and pricing policies in the tobacco trade are important factors deserving of consideration, they are beyond the control of tobacco control efforts. Ample opportunity exists however, to decrease the affordability of tobacco products through taxation.

It is important to recognise that tobacco has become significantly more affordable …

View Full Text