To identify key economic issues involved in raising the tobacco tax and to recommend possible options for tobacco tax reform in China.
Estimated price elasticities of the demand for cigarettes, prevalence data and epidemiology are used to estimate the impact of a tobacco tax increase on cigarette consumption, government tax revenue, lives saved, employment and revenue loss in the cigarette industry and tobacco farming.
The recent Chinese tax adjustment, if passed along to the retail price, would reduce the number of smokers by 630 000 saving 210 000 lives, at a price elasticity of 0.15. A tax increase of 1 RMB (or US$0.13) per pack of cigarettes would increase the Chinese government’s tax revenue by 129 billion RMB (US 17.2 billion), decrease consumption by 3.0 billion packs of cigarettes, reduce the number of smokers by 3.42 million and save 1.14 million lives.
The empirical economic analysis and tax simulation results clearly indicate that increasing the tobacco tax in China is the most cost-effective instrument for tobacco control.