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High tobacco taxes have become widely adopted, partly in order to discourage smoking and thus improve public health. Critics of high tobacco taxes are concerned that, because tobacco smoking is often more prevalent (especially in higher income countries) among lower income people, tobacco taxes are regressive and harm low-income households. Policymakers considering further increases in tobacco taxes worry about further increasing the financial burden on low-income households.
In this issue of Tobacco Control, Verguet et al 1 provide valuable information to such policymakers. They estimate the circumstances (including smoking prevalence, income gradient in prevalence of smoking and income gradient in the price elasticity of smoking) under which an increase in tobacco taxes will not further increase the average financial burden on lower income households, relative to higher income households. The authors conclude from these results that there are many specific circumstances under which increases in tobacco taxation are not regressive.
While their conclusion is entirely accurate with the regressivity definitions used, I am uncomfortable with how they frame it as ‘question[ing] the doctrine that …
Contributors I am the sole contributor.
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.