Older but Not Wiser- Smokers and Passive Smoking Belief
In recent years the proportion of people who smoke in developed countries has reached a plateau, even though countries like the UK continue to run anti-smoking campaigns. We aim to inform UK policy makers about the effects of anti-smoking campaigns by looking at the beliefs that smokers and non-smokers have about the dangers of passive smoking, with particular interest in whether these beliefs vary amongst smokers of different ages. We envisage two groups of potential smokers. There are the altruists, who are less likely to start to smoke once they are fully aware of the dangers of passive smoking; and there are the non-altruists for whom the effects of passive smoking are an irrelevancy. We hypothesis that anti-smoking campaigns have managed to dissuade the altruists of later generations from ever starting to smoke, but are having no effect on the behavior of the non-altruists and hence the plateau. The older smoking altruists are then captive to their smoking behavior and have to rationalize their smoking behavior by downplaying the effects of passive smoking. Using data from the Health Survey for England we find strong evidence that it is the older smokers who are less prone to believe in the dangers of passive smoking whilst younger smokers essentially have the same beliefs as nonsmokers: a young uneducated smoker is more aware of the dangers of passive smoking than a highly educated older smoker. This conclusion is robust to a number of sensitivity analyses. We conclude that the main effect of current campaigns is the continuing deterrence of potential young altruist smokers.
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