Price Elasticity Estimates for Tobacco and Other Addictive Goods in India

Rijo M John
Working Paper Series No. WP-2005-003
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The tax base of tobacco in India is found to be heavily depended on about fifteen per cent of the tobacco users who represent cigarettes smokers. Non-cigarette tobacco products used by the majority of tobacco users are largely out of the tax net. Analysis of the price elasticity of various tobacco products would bring out the potential of tax as an instrument to control tobacco use of any kind. In this context, this paper examines how the demand for a variety of tobacco products and addictive goods such as pan and alcohol respond to changes in prices. The spatial variations of prices that are obtained from a cross section of 120,000 households spread across the country have been used for this purpose. Estimates of price elasticities showed that the own price elasticity estimates of various addictive goods in India ranged between -0.5 to -1.0 with bidis, leaf tobacco and alcohol having elasticities close to unity, cigarettes being the least price elastic of all. As against the general notions regarding the complementarity between cigarettes and alcohol, our study finds that these are substitutes at least in urban India. We also observed that, over a five year period, the addictive goods such as bidis and leaf tobacco in India have become slightly more price responsive while elasticity of cigarettes and pan have stabilized. With some assumptions, it is shown that taxes on cigarettes can be raised nearly 2.5 times the current level while that of bidis can be raised tenfold without any fall in revenue.