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the right. With a highly inelastic demand curve, coffee prices fell dramatically. This situation is shown inFigure5.8(a).Elasticity also reveals whether firms can pass higher costs that they incur on to consumers. Addictive substances tendto fall into this category. For example, the demand for cigarettes is relatively inelastic among regular smokers whoare somewhat addicted; economic research suggests that increasing the price of cigarettes by 10% leads to about a3% reduction in the quantity of cigarettes smoked by adults, so the elasticity of demand for cigarettes is 0.3. If societyincreases taxes on companies that make cigarettes, the result will be, as inFigure 5.9(a), that the supply curve shiftsfrom S0to S1. However, as the equilibrium moves from E0to E1, these taxes are mainly passed along to consumersin the form of higher prices. These higher taxes on cigarettes will raise tax revenue for the government, but they willnot much affect the quantity of smoking.If the goal is to reduce the quantity of cigarettes demanded, it must be achieved by shifting this inelastic demand backto the left, perhaps with public programs to discourage the use of cigarettes or to help people to quit. For example,anti-smoking advertising campaigns have shown some ability to reduce smoking. However, if demand for cigaretteswas more elastic, as inFigure 5.9(b), then an increase in taxes that shifts supply from S0to S1and equilibriumfrom E0to E1would reduce the quantity of cigarettes smoked substantially. Youth smoking seems to be more elasticthan adult smoking—that is, the quantity of youth smoking will fall by a greater percentage than the quantity of adultsmoking in response to a given percentage increase in price.Chapter 5 | Elasticity115
Figure 5.9 Passing along Higher Costs to ConsumersHigher costs, like a higher tax on cigarette companies forthe example given in the text, lead supply to shift to the left. This shift is identical in (a) and (b). However, in (a),where demand is inelastic, the cost increase can largely be passed along to consumers in the form of higher prices,without much of a decline in equilibrium quantity. In (b), demand is elastic, so the shift in supply results primarily in alower equilibrium quantity. Consumers suffer in either case, but in (a), they suffer from paying a higher price for thesame quantity, while in (b), they suffer from buying a lower quantity (and presumably needing to shift theirconsumption elsewhere).Elasticity and Tax IncidenceThe example of cigarette taxes showed that because demand is inelastic, taxes are not effective at reducing theequilibrium quantity of smoking, and they are mainly passed along to consumers in the form of higher prices. Theanalysis, or manner, of how the burden of a tax is divided between consumers and producers is calledtax incidence.