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The Exchange Theory of Teenage Smoking and the Counterproductiveness of Moderate Regulation

Listed author(s):
  • Kent Smetters
  • Jennifer Gravelle

About three-quarters of secondary schools are reluctant to vigorously enforce smoking bans due to various social pressures; ten percent of these schools do not have bans at all. Empirically, school-based smoking regulations appear, at best, ineffective at reducing teenage smoking and, more likely, may actually increase participation. Only schools which vigorously enforce bans have a lower smoking participation. In sum, teenage smoking participation appears to be non-monotonic in the level of enforcement. This paper develops an exchange model that explains this non-monotonic pattern. Smoking bans provide an exchange opportunity to less popular students. Less popular students who begin smoking validate the risk-taking behavior of existing teenage smokers who, in exchange, provide friendship to the newcomers. The enforcement itself becomes the glue which holds the group together. Teenage smoking bans, unless vigorously enforced, increase teenage smoking participation. An increase in self-esteem and other non-smoking related qualities, however, undermines the trading channel, which can help combat teenage smoking. Numerous pieces of empirical evidence, culled from the empirical social psychology literature, are consistent with all of the key predictions of the model.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 8262.

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Date of creation: Apr 2001
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8262
Note: CH PE
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  1. Becker, Gary S & Grossman, Michael & Murphy, Kevin M, 1994. "An Empirical Analysis of Cigarette Addiction," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(3), pages 396-418, June.
  2. Amos, Amanda & Gray, David & Currie, Candace & Elton, Rob, 1997. "Healthy or druggy? Self-image, ideal image and smoking behaviour among young people," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 45(6), pages 847-858, September.
  3. Viscusi, W Kip, 1990. "Do Smokers Underestimate Risks?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(6), pages 1253-1269, December.
  4. Becker, Gary S & Murphy, Kevin M, 1988. "A Theory of Rational Addiction," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(4), pages 675-700, August.
  5. Douglas, Stratford, 1998. "The Duration of the Smoking Habit," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 36(1), pages 49-64, January.
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