Objectives To investigate the appropriateness of tax incidence (the percentage of the retail price occupied by taxes) benchmarking in low-income and-middle-income countries (LMICs) with rapidly growing economies and to explore the viability of an alternative tax policy rule based on the affordability of cigarettes.
Design The paper outlines criticisms of tax incidence benchmarking, particularly in the context of LMICs. It then considers an affordability-based benchmark using relative income price (RIP) as a measure of affordability. The RIP measures the percentage of annual per capita GDP required to purchase 100 packs of cigarettes. Using South Africa as a case study of an LMIC, future consumption is simulated using both tax incidence benchmarks and affordability benchmarks.
Results I show that a tax incidence benchmark is not an optimal policy tool in South Africa and that an affordability benchmark could be a more effective means of reducing tobacco consumption in the future.
Conclusions Although a tax incidence benchmark was successful in increasing prices and reducing tobacco consumption in South Africa in the past, this approach has drawbacks, particularly in the context of a rapidly growing LMIC economy. An affordability benchmark represents an appropriate alternative that would be more effective in reducing future cigarette consumption.
- taxation and price
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Competing interests None.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.