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Open Access Research article

The synergistic effect of cigarette taxes on the consumption of cigarettes, alcohol and betel nuts

Jie-Min Lee

Author Affiliations

Department of Logistics Management, National Kaohsiung Marine University, N0.142, Hai-Chuan Rd. Nan-Tzu, Kaohsiung, Taiwan

BMC Public Health 2007, 7:121  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-7-121

Published: 25 June 2007

Abstract

Background

Consumption of cigarettes and alcoholic beverages creates serious health consequences for individuals and overwhelming financial burdens for governments around the world. In Asia, a third stimulant – betel nuts – increases this burden exponentially. For example, individuals who simultaneously smoke, chew betel nuts and drink alcohol are approximately 123 times more likely to develop oral, pharyngeal and laryngeal cancer than are those who do not.

To discourage consumption of cigarettes, the government of Taiwan has imposed three taxes over the last two decades. It now wishes to lower consumption of betel nuts. To assist in this effort, our study poses two questions: 1) Will the imposition of an NT$10 Health Tax on cigarettes effectively reduce cigarette consumption? and 2) Will this cigarette tax also reduce consumption of alcoholic beverages and betel nuts? To answer these questions, we analyze the effect of the NT$10 tax on overall cigarette consumption as well as the cross price elasticities of cigarettes, betel nuts, and alcoholic beverages.

Methods

To establish the Central Bureau of Statistics demand function, we used cigarette, betel nut, and alcoholic beverage price and sales volume data for the years 1972–2002. To estimate the overall demand price elasticity of cigarettes, betel nuts, and alcoholic beverages, we used a seemingly unrelated regression analysis.

Results

We find that the NT$10 health tax on cigarettes will reduce cigarette consumption by a significant 27.22%. We also find that cigarettes, betel nuts, and alcoholic beverages have similar inherent price elasticities of -0.6571, -0.5871, and -0.6261 respectively. Because of this complementary relationship, the NT$10 health tax on cigarettes will reduce betel nut consumption by 20.07% and alcohol consumption by 7.5%.

Conclusion

The assessment of a health tax on cigarettes as a smoking control policy tool yields a win-win outcome for both government and consumers because it not only reduces cigarette consumption, but it also reduces betel nut and alcoholic beverage consumption due to a synergistic relationship. Revenues generated by the tax can be used to fund city and county smoking control programs as well as to meet the health insurance system's current financial shortfall.