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On the Identification of the Effect of Smoking on Mortality


  • Valerie Lechene
  • Jerome Adda


This paper considers the identification of the effect of tobacco on mortality. If individuals select into smoking according to some unobserved health characteristic, then estimates of the effect of tobacco on health that do not account for this are biased. We show that using information on mortality, morbidity and smoking, it is possible to control for this selection effect and obtain consistent estimates of the effect of smoking on mortality. We implement our method on Swedish data. We show that there is selection into smoking, and considerable dispersion around the average effect, so that health policies that aim at decreasing smoking prevalence and quantities smoked might have less effect in terms of average number of years of life gained than previously estimated. We also empirically show that selection into smoking has increased over the last fifty years with the availability of information on the dangers of smoking, so that future studies comparing smokers and nonsmokers will spuriously reveal a worsening effect of tobacco on health if they fail to control for selection.

Suggested Citation

  • Valerie Lechene & Jerome Adda, 2004. "On the Identification of the Effect of Smoking on Mortality," Economics Series Working Papers 184, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:oxf:wpaper:184

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Pedro Rosa Dias, 2010. "Modelling opportunity in health under partial observability of circumstances," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 19(3), pages 252-264.
    2. Balia, Silvia & Jones, Andrew M., 2008. "Mortality, lifestyle and socio-economic status," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 1-26, January.
    3. Stanciole, Anderson, 2007. "Health Insurance and Life Style Choices: Identifying the Ex Ante Moral Hazard," IRISS Working Paper Series 2007-10, IRISS at CEPS/INSTEAD.
    4. Grignon, Michel, 2009. "An empirical investigation of heterogeneity in time preferences and smoking behaviors," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 38(5), pages 739-751, October.
    5. Sunder, Marco, 2005. "Toward generation XL: Anthropometrics of longevity in late 20th-century United States," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 3(2), pages 271-295, July.
    6. Silvia Balia & Andrew M. Jones, 2007. "Unravelling the influence of smoking initiation and cessation on premature mortality using a common latent factor model," Health, Econometrics and Data Group (HEDG) Working Papers 07/06, HEDG, c/o Department of Economics, University of York.

    More about this item


    Health; Duration; Smoking; Selection; Mortality; Life Expectancy; Causality;

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior


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