The World Bank
More than 320 million people in China smoke, which accounts for nearly one-third of all the smokers in the world. Almost two-thirds of adult Chinese men are smokers. On the other hand, tobacco production is a state-run enterprise that provides substantial earnings and tax revenue for the government. This paper addresses this policy dilemma by analyzing the impact of an additional cigarette tax on the entire economy.
Economic analyses have shown that price elasticities of the demand for cigarettes range from –0.40 to – 0.70. At a price elasticity of –0.54, for instance, a 40 cent increase in tax from 1.60 yuan per pack to 2.00 yuan tax per pack (raising the retail price from 4.00 yuan to 4.40 yuan) would reduce consumption by 4.57 billion packs, generate additional central government revenues of 24.74 billion Yuan and save 1.44 to 2.16 million lives. The increase in central government tax revenue would be twice as large as the total losses in industry revenue, tobacco farmers’ incomes and local tax revenue (12.27 billion Yuan). Therefore, considering both the health and economic benefits, additional taxation on cigarettes in China would be a desirable public policy for the Chinese government to consider.