State Tobacco Excise Taxes Methodology

The U.S. Surgeon General, in The Health Consequences of Smoking – 50 Years of Progress, released in January 2014 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first Surgeon General’s report on smoking in 1964, concluded that “increases in the prices of tobacco products, including those resulting from excise tax increases, prevent initiation of tobacco use, promote cessation and reduce the prevalence and intensity of tobacco use among youth and adults.”1

Research has clearly demonstrated that as the price of cigarettes increases, consumption decreases. For each 10% price increase, it is estimated that consumption drops by about 7% for youth and 3 to 5% for adults.2 Increasing taxes on tobacco products other than cigarettes is also important. Nationally, rates of cigar smoking among youth now equal rates of cigarette smoking and e-cigarettes are the most popular tobacco product used by youth.

The grading system for State Tobacco Excise Taxes is a points-based system, with the level of a state’s cigarette tax worth up to 30 possible points and taxes on other tobacco products worth up to 10 possible points, for a total of 40 points available in the grading category.

The 30 points for the level of a state’s cigarette tax will continue to be based on the average (mean) of all state taxes as the midpoint, or the lowest “C” grade. The average cigarette tax was chosen because it is often seen as an indication of where states are in their cigarette taxing policies. The average state excise tax on January 1, 2024 was $1.93 per pack. The range of state excise taxes ($0.17 to $5.35 per pack) is divided into quintiles, and a state is assigned six points for attaining each quintile.

The score earned for the level of a state’s cigarette tax is broken down as follows:

30$3.86 and up
24$2.895 to $3.859
18$1.93 to $2.894
12$0.965 to $1.929
6Under $0.965

For taxes on tobacco products other than cigarettes, a state is evaluated on whether the tax on five specific types of tobacco products is a) equivalent to the state's tax on cigarettes and b) the tax on the specific type of tobacco product is not based on the weight of the product. Taxing tobacco products other than cigarettes by weight is inadequate because it means the tax level does not keep pace with inflation and tobacco industry or other price increases.

The five specific types of tobacco products other than cigarettes which states are evaluated on are:

  • Little cigars
  • Large cigars
  • Smokeless tobacco
  • Pipe/roll-your-own tobacco
  • E-cigarettes

In “State of Tobacco Control” 2020, e-cigarettes replaced dissolvable tobacco products as one of the five categories.

States can earn up to 2 points total for each type of other tobacco product; 1 point if the tax is equivalent to the cigarette tax and 1 point if the tax is not weight-based. States will not be penalized for having a weight-based tax if they also have a minimum tax that is equal to the current cigarette tax or the weight-based tax is equivalent to the cigarette tax.

GradePoints Earned
A36 to 40 points
B32 to 35 points
C28 to 31 points
D24 to 27 points
F23 and below points
  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2014.

  2. There is general consensus among tobacco researchers that every 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes decreases cigarette consumption by about 4 percent in adults and about 7 percent in children. Tauras J, et al. Effects of Price and Access Laws on Teenage Smoking Initiation: A National Longitudinal Analysis, Bridging the Gap Research, ImpacTeen. April 24, 2001.

Page last updated: June 7, 2024