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

  • John Cawley
  • Stephanie von Hinke Kessler Scholder

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.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 18805.

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Date of creation: Feb 2013
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as THE DEMAND FOR CIGARETTES AS DERIVED FROM THE DEMAND FOR WEIGHT LOSS: A THEORETICAL AND EMPIRICAL INVESTIGATION John Cawley1,2,3,*, Davide Dragone4 andStephanie Von Hinke Kessler Scholder5 Article first published online: 26 OCT 2014 DOI: 10.1002/hec.3118 Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Issue Cover image for Vol. 24 Issue 9 Health Economics Early View (Online Version of Record published before inclusion in an issue)
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18805
Note: CH HC HE
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  1. van Ours, J.C., 2003. "Is cannabis a stepping stone for cocaine?," Other publications TiSEM c1213d1c-a542-4627-938c-7, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.
  2. Dee, Thomas S., 1999. "The complementarity of teen smoking and drinking," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(6), pages 769-793, December.
  3. 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.
  4. John Cawley, 2004. "The Impact of Obesity on Wages," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(2).
  5. van Ours, Jan C, 2001. "Is Cannabis a Stepping-Stone for Cocaine?," CEPR Discussion Papers 3116, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. Gruber, Jonathan & Frakes, Michael, 2006. "Does falling smoking lead to rising obesity?," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(2), pages 183-197, March.
  7. 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.
  8. Shin-Yi Chou & Michael Grossman & Henry Saffer, 2002. "An Economic Analysis of Adult Obesity: Results from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System," NBER Working Papers 9247, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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, 04.
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