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Killing by lung cancer or by diabetes? The trade-off between smoking and obesity

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  • Sergi Jiménez-Martín

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  • Federico A. Todeschini
  • José María Labeaga

Abstract

As the prevalence of smoking has decreased to below 20%, health practitioners interest has shifted towards the prevalence of obesity, and reducing it is one of the major health challenges in decades to come. In this paper we study the impact that the final product of the anti-smoking campaign, that is, smokers quitting the habit, had on average weight in the population. To these ends, we use data from the Behavioral Risk Factors Surveillance System, a large series of independent representative cross-sectional surveys. We construct a synthetic panel that allows us to control for unobserved heterogeneity and we exploit the exogenous changes in taxes and regulations to instrument the endogenous decision to give up the habit of smoking. Our estimates, are very close to estimates issued in the ’90s by the US Department of Health, and indicate that a 10% decrease in the incidence of smoking leads to an average weight increase of 2.2 to 3 pounds, depending on choice of specification. In addition, we find evidence that the effect overshoots in the short run, although a significant part remains even after two years. However, when we split the sample between men and women, we only find a significant effect for men. Finally, the implicit elasticity of quitting smoking to the probability of becoming obese is calculated at 0.58. This implies that the net benefit from reducing the incidence of smoking by 1% is positive even though the cost to society is $0.6 billions.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra in its series Economics Working Papers with number 1218.

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Date of creation: May 2010
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Handle: RePEc:upf:upfgen:1218

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  1. Courtemanche, Charles, 2009. "Rising cigarette prices and rising obesity: Coincidence or unintended consequence?," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(4), pages 781-798, July.
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  9. Trenton Smith & Christiana Stoddard & Michael G. Barnes, 2007. "Why the Poor Get Fat: Weight Gain and Economic Insecurity," Working Papers 2007-16, School of Economic Sciences, Washington State University.
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  12. Andrew Clark & Fabrice Etilé, 2003. "Health Changes and Smoking: An Economic Analysis," DELTA Working Papers 2003-13, DELTA (Ecole normale supérieure).
  13. Dolores Collado, M., 1997. "Estimating dynamic models from time series of independent cross-sections," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 82(1), pages 37-62.
  14. Vincenzo Atella & Noemi Pace & Daniela Vuri, 2007. "Wages and Weight in Europe: Evidence using Quantile Regression Model," CHILD Working Papers wp23_07, CHILD - Centre for Household, Income, Labour and Demographic economics - ITALY.
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  16. Carbone, Jared C. & Kverndokk, Snorre & Rogeberg, Ole Jorgen, 2005. "Smoking, health, risk, and perception," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(4), pages 631-653, July.
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