Objective To examine the potential impact of the goods and services tax (GST) on price, consumption and tax revenue from tobacco products in India and across states.

Methods Data on prices, tax rates and tax revenue are used to estimate a benchmark scenario prior to the GST implementation in 2017–2018. Using own-price elasticity of demand for tobacco products, we estimate the impact of GST at the state level and the aggregate state-wise impact to obtain the national level impact.

Findings We predict that the statutory GST rate of 28% plus compensation cess will increase the price of cigarettes, bidi and smokeless tobacco by 0.18%, 8.8% and 6%, respectively, and, as a result, it will reduce the weighted average consumption by 0.3%, 10% and 6% and increase tax revenue by 0.17%, 35% and 4.7%, respectively. Most states will experience a fall in tax revenue from tobacco products by more than 50% compared with the value-added tax revenue they collected pre-GST. The GST compensation cess will have to be used to compensate states’ revenue shortfalls.

Conclusions The GST has increased the complexity of the tax system for tobacco products. In particular, for cigarettes, the specific cess constitutes the majority of tax revenue, and therefore, it must be revised regularly to protect revenue and keep real prices from falling. In addition, India should reintroduce excise taxation on all tobacco products, at least in part, on top of the GST, to make them less affordable and to smooth the transition after the expiration of the compensation cess.

Research paper co-authored by Dr Rijo M John, Senior Fellow, Centre for Public Policy Research “Economic costs of diseases and deaths attributable to bidi smoking in India” published in the Tobacco Control an international peer-reviewed journal

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