Combustible cigarettes cost less to use than e-cigarettes: global evidence and tax policy implications

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Abstract

Background

Some scholars suggest that price differences between combustible cigarettes and e-cigarettes could be effective in moving current combustible smokers to e-cigarettes, which could reduce tobacco-related death and disease. Currently, in most jurisdictions, e-cigarettes are not subject to the same excise taxes as combustible cigarettes, potentially providing the category with a price advantage over combustible cigarettes. This paper tests whether e-cigarettes tax advantage has translated into a price advantage.

Methods

In a sample of 45 countries, the price of combustible cigarettes, disposable e-cigarettes and rechargeable cigarettes were compared.

Results

Comparable units of combustible cigarettes cost less than disposable e-cigarettes in almost every country in the sample. While the e-liquids consumed in rechargeable e-cigarettes might cost less per comparable unit than combustible cigarettes, the initial cost to purchase a rechargeable e-cigarette presents a significant cost barrier to switching from smoking to vaping.

Discussion

Existing prices of e-cigarettes are generally much higher than of combustible cigarettes. If policymakers wish to tax e-cigarettes less than combustibles, forceful policy action—almost certainly through excise taxation—must raise the price of combustible cigarettes beyond the price of using e-cigarettes.

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