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The Demand for Cigarettes as Derived from the Demand for Weight Control


  • Cawley, John

    () (Cornell University)

  • von Hinke Kessler Scholder, Stephanie

    () (University of Bristol)


We provide new evidence on the extent to which the demand for cigarettes is derived from the demand for weight control (i.e. weight loss or avoidance of weight gain). We utilize nationally representative data that provide the most direct evidence to date on this question: individuals are directly asked whether they smoke to control their weight. We find that, among teenagers who smoke frequently, 46% of girls and 30% of boys are smoking in part to control their weight. This practice is significantly more common among youths who describe themselves as too fat than those who describe themselves as about the right weight. The derived demand for cigarettes has important implications for tax policy. Under reasonable assumptions, the demand for cigarettes is less price elastic among those who smoke for weight control. Thus, taxes on cigarettes will result in less behavior change (but more revenue collection and less deadweight loss) among those for whom the demand for cigarettes is a derived demand. Public health efforts to reduce smoking initiation and encourage cessation may wish to design campaigns to alter the derived nature of cigarette demand, especially among adolescent girls.

Suggested Citation

  • Cawley, John & von Hinke Kessler Scholder, Stephanie, 2013. "The Demand for Cigarettes as Derived from the Demand for Weight Control," IZA Discussion Papers 7213, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp7213

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. DiNardo, John & Lemieux, Thomas, 2001. "Alcohol, marijuana, and American youth: the unintended consequences of government regulation," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(6), pages 991-1010, November.
    2. van Ours, Jan C., 2003. "Is cannabis a stepping-stone for cocaine?," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(4), pages 539-554, July.
    3. M. Bronfenbrenner, 1961. "Notes On The Elasticity Of Derived Demand," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 13(3), pages 254-261.
    4. Rees, Daniel I. & Sabia, Joseph J., 2010. "Body weight and smoking initiation: Evidence from Add Health," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(5), pages 774-777, September.
    5. Cawley, John & Markowitz, Sara & Tauras, John, 2004. "Lighting up and slimming down: the effects of body weight and cigarette prices on adolescent smoking initiation," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(2), pages 293-311, March.
    6. James Nonnemaker & Eric Finkelstein & Mark Engelen & Thomas Hoerger & Matthew Farrelly, 2009. "Have Efforts To Reduce Smoking Really Contributed To The Obesity Epidemic?," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 47(2), pages 366-376, April.
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    8. Dee, Thomas S., 1999. "The complementarity of teen smoking and drinking," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(6), pages 769-793, December.
    9. Chou, Shin-Yi & Grossman, Michael & Saffer, Henry, 2004. "An economic analysis of adult obesity: results from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(3), pages 565-587, May.
    10. John Cawley, 2004. "The Impact of Obesity on Wages," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(2).
    11. Don Kenkel, 2012. "Health Behaviours Among Young People," Chapters,in: The Elgar Companion to Health Economics, Second Edition, chapter 6 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    12. John Cawley & Sara Markowitz & John Tauras, 2006. "Obesity, Cigarette Prices, Youth Access Laws, and Adolescent Smoking Initiation," Eastern Economic Journal, Eastern Economic Association, vol. 32(1), pages 149-170, Winter.
    13. Burkhauser, Richard V. & Cawley, John, 2008. "Beyond BMI: The value of more accurate measures of fatness and obesity in social science research," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 519-529, March.
    14. Gruber, Jonathan & Frakes, Michael, 2006. "Does falling smoking lead to rising obesity?," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(2), pages 183-197, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Amin, Vikesh & Lhila, Aparna, 2016. "Decomposing racial differences in adolescent smoking in the U.S," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 22(C), pages 161-176.
    2. repec:eee:cysrev:v:84:y:2018:i:c:p:86-93 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Dragone, D. & Ziebarth, N.R., 2015. "Non-Separable Time Preferences and Novelty Consumption: Theory and Evidence from the East German Transition to Capitalism," Health, Econometrics and Data Group (HEDG) Working Papers 15/28, HEDG, c/o Department of Economics, University of York.
    4. Davide Dragone & Francesco Manaresi & Luca Savorelli, 2013. "Obesity and smoking: can we catch two birds with one tax?," Discussion Paper Series, Department of Economics 201306, Department of Economics, University of St. Andrews.
    5. Jiti Gao & Bin Peng & Zhao Ren & Xiaohui Zhang, 2015. "Variable Selection for a Categorical Varying-Coefficient Model with Identifications for Determinants of Body Mass Index," Monash Econometrics and Business Statistics Working Papers 21/15, Monash University, Department of Econometrics and Business Statistics.

    More about this item


    smoking; cigarettes; obesity; BMI; weight; derived demand; price elasticity;

    JEL classification:

    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health
    • D01 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Microeconomic Behavior: Underlying Principles
    • H2 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue
    • H3 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents
    • Z18 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Public Policy

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