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Toxic Choices: The Theory and Impact of Smoking Bans


Author Info

  • Ian J. Irvine

    (Department of Economics, Concordia University, Montreal, Canada)

  • Van Hai Nguyen

    (Department of Economics, Concordia University, Montreal, Canada)


Smoking bans in the workplace and public places are now ubiquitous. While indices of such controls are commonly included in econometric models, there exists little theory that validates or analyzes them. This paper first proposes a theoretical model of maximizing behaviour on the part of smokers which serves as a vehicle to evaluate bans. It is a type of nicotine inventory management model where smoking during one phase of the day impacts utility in other periods. It also includes an intensity choice as part of the optimization. Calibrated model simulations suggest that, with the exception of heavy smokers, workplace bans have relatively minor impacts on smokers throughout most of the distribution due to substitution possibilities. We estimate quantile regressions using Canadian survey data for 2003 and .find that workplace bans have a surprisingly small impact on the number of cigarettes smoked. However, restrictions on smoking in the home are found to be of an order of importance greater, even when instrumented. The policy conclusion is that the effectiveness of workplace bans depends heavily upon whether there exist complementary restrictions on smoking in environments to which individuals may wish to switch their smoking following a workplace ban.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Geary Institute, University College Dublin in its series Working Papers with number 200951.

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Length: 45 pages
Date of creation: 01 Oct 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ucd:wpaper:200951

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Related research

Keywords: Smoking bans; tobacco; nicotine; cotinine; intensity; quantile regression;

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Cited by:
  1. Ian Irvine & William Sims, 2012. "A Taxing Dilemma: Assessing the Impact of Tax and Price Changes on the Tobacco Market," C.D. Howe Institute Commentary, C.D. Howe Institute, issue 350, May.
  2. Nguyen, Hai V., 2013. "Do smoke-free car laws work? Evidence from a quasi-experiment," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(1), pages 138-148.
  3. Michael T. Owyang & E. Katarina Vermann, 2012. "Where there’s a smoking ban, there’s still fire," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue July, pages 265-286.


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