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CIGARETTE TAXES AND ILLICIT TRADE IN EUROPE

James Prieger () and Jonathan Kulick

Economic Inquiry, 2018, vol. 56, issue 3, 1706-1723

Abstract: Cigarettes are highly taxed in Europe, but at higher prices some consumers substitute more toward illicit cigarettes. The illicit retail trade in cigarettes (IRTC) includes counterfeit, untaxed, and smuggled cigarettes. Some existing literature includes claims that taxes are not an important determinant of IRTC. Using data from the European Union, we find the opposite: raising prices leads to substantial increases in IRTC. A €1 increase in tax/pack is expected to increase illicit market share by 5 to 12 percentage points and increase illicit cigarette sales by 29% to 95%. The results are robust to alternative specifications and data. (JEL I18, H26, K42)

Date: 2018
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