The Nov. 23 Metro article “District’s cigarette tax hike sinks in” illustrated the simple economic fact that buyers’ shopping habits are influenced by the price of a key product. Studies from the Thomas Jefferson Institute have shown that localities that raise cigarette taxes often find less tax revenue coming in a year or two later because smokers find other places to buy cheaper cigarettes, such as stores in adjacent localities or the black market. Just as you will drive blocks out of the way to save a dime on a gallon of gas or $10 on a shirt, smokers change where they buy cigarettes when taxes go up by only 15 or 20 cents a pack. So, of course, a $2-per-pack cigarette tax in the District will drive smokers to other locations or the black market. And when they go into a store for cheaper cigarettes, they also buy other items, such as milk, bread, sodas, candy or beer. All of this hurts the small mom-and-pop convenience stores in the District that have lost that smoking customer.
Mike Thompson, Springfield
The writer is chairman and president of the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.