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Combustible cigarettes cost less to use than e-cigarettes: global evidence and tax policy implications
  1. Alex C Liber1,2,
  2. Jeffrey M Drope1,
  3. Michal Stoklosa1
  1. 1Economic and Health Policy Research, Intramural Research Department, American Cancer Society, Atlanta, Georgia, USA
  2. 2Health Management and Policy Department, University of Michigan School of Public Health, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
  1. Correspondence to Alex C Liber, Department of Health Management & Policy, University of Michigan School of Public Health, 1420 Washington Heights, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2029, USA; acliber{at}


Background Some scholars suggest that price differences between combustible cigarettes and e-cigarettes could be effective in moving current combustible smokers to e-cigarettes, which could reduce tobacco-related death and disease. Currently, in most jurisdictions, e-cigarettes are not subject to the same excise taxes as combustible cigarettes, potentially providing the category with a price advantage over combustible cigarettes. This paper tests whether e-cigarettes tax advantage has translated into a price advantage.

Methods In a sample of 45 countries, the price of combustible cigarettes, disposable e-cigarettes and rechargeable cigarettes were compared.

Results Comparable units of combustible cigarettes cost less than disposable e-cigarettes in almost every country in the sample. While the e-liquids consumed in rechargeable e-cigarettes might cost less per comparable unit than combustible cigarettes, the initial cost to purchase a rechargeable e-cigarette presents a significant cost barrier to switching from smoking to vaping.

Discussion Existing prices of e-cigarettes are generally much higher than of combustible cigarettes. If policymakers wish to tax e-cigarettes less than combustibles, forceful policy action—almost certainly through excise taxation—must raise the price of combustible cigarettes beyond the price of using e-cigarettes.

  • Electronic nicotine delivery devices
  • Taxation
  • Economics
  • Public policy

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