In a study a few years ago, economist Jeffrey E. Harris of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found solid evidence that higher cigarette prices led to reduced cigarette consumption. The state Board of Equalization, reporting on cigarette tax revenues since voter-approved Proposition 99 raised the cigarette tax by 25 cents a pack, underscores Harris' findings.
Cigarette purchases in California so far in 1989 are down more than 10% compared to a year ago, even allowing for stockpile purchasing by consumers before the tax hike took effect. The national decline in the same period was only 4%. Either confirmed smokers are smoking less because of higher prices or potential smokers have been dissuaded from even starting.