Enhancing Compliance with Tobacco Control Policies

This paper examines enforcement issues for three tobacco control policies: youth access laws, clean air laws, and most extensively, excise taxes. There are efficient methods for improving tax compliance that require little in the way of additional government resources. Interstate smuggling could be greatly reduced if the low-tax states raised their rates. Barring that, any state could fend off illegal imports through measures such as improved tax stamps, licensing of those involved in the distribution chain, and better record-keeping requirements. The Internet market has already been curtailed by state enforcement efforts coupled with agreements with shippers and credit card companies, and could be limited further by federal enforcement of the Jenkins Act. These and other measures are not expensive, and are likely to be effective.

Clean air laws are to some extent self-enforcing, while youth-access laws definitely are not. Compliance with either could be improved through changes in the regulatory framework, but regular compliance checks are also important. We provide some rough estimates of the costs of compliance checks for both tobacco retailers and for other entities governed by clean air provisions.