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Death by lung cancer or by diabetes? The unintended consequences of quitting smoking

  • Todeschini, F.;
  • Labeaga, J.;
  • Jiménez-Martín, S.;

In this paper we study one potential unintended consequences that the US anti-smoking campaign might have had: an increase in the average weight of the population. To these ends, we use data from the Behavioral Risk Factors Surveillance System, a large series of independent representative cross-sectional surveys. We construct a synthetic panel that allows us to control for unobserved heterogeneity and we exploit the exogenous changes in taxes and regulations to instrument the endogenous decision to give up the habit of smoking. Our estimates, are very close to estimates issued in the ’90s by the US Department of Health, and indicate that a 10% decrease in the incidence of smoking leads to an average weight increase of 2.2 to 3 pounds, depending on choice of specification. In addition, we find evidence that the effect overshoots in the short run, although a significant part remains even after two years. However, when we split the sample between men and women, we only find a significant effect for men. Finally, the implicit elasticity of quitting smoking to the probability of becoming obese is calculated at 0.58. This implies that the cost to society from reducing the incidence of smoking is $0.6 billions larger than previously estimated, although the benefit is still positive.

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Paper provided by HEDG, c/o Department of Economics, University of York in its series Health, Econometrics and Data Group (HEDG) Working Papers with number 10/16.

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Date of creation: Jul 2010
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Handle: RePEc:yor:hectdg:10/16
Contact details of provider: Postal: HEDG/HERC, Department of Economics and Related Studies, University of York, York, YO10 5DD, United Kingdom
Phone: (0)1904 323776
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Web page: http://www.york.ac.uk/economics/postgrad/herc/hedg/Email:


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  1. John Cawley & Richard V. Burkhauser, 2006. "Beyond BMI: The Value of More Accurate Measures of Fatness and Obesity in Social Science Research," NBER Working Papers 12291, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Inas Rashad, 2006. "Structural Estimation of Caloric Intake, Exercise, Smoking, and Obesity," NBER Working Papers 11957, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. John Cawley, 2000. "Body Weight and Women's Labor Market Outcomes," NBER Working Papers 7841, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Dolores Collado, M., 1997. "Estimating dynamic models from time series of independent cross-sections," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 82(1), pages 37-62.
  5. Smith Trenton G. & Stoddard Christiana & Barnes Michael G, 2009. "Why the Poor Get Fat: Weight Gain and Economic Insecurity," Forum for Health Economics & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 12(2), pages 1-31, June.
  6. Brunello, Giorgio & Michaud, Pierre-Carl & Sanz-de-Galdeano, Anna, 2008. "The Rise in Obesity across the Atlantic: An Economic Perspective," IZA Discussion Papers 3529, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  7. Jérôme Adda & Francesca Cornaglia, 2006. "Taxes, Cigarette Consumption, and Smoking Intensity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(4), pages 1013-1028, September.
  8. Deaton, Angus, 1985. "Panel data from time series of cross-sections," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 30(1-2), pages 109-126.
  9. Carbone, Jared C. & Kverndokk, Snorre & Rogeberg, Ole Jorgen, 2005. "Smoking, health, risk, and perception," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(4), pages 631-653, July.
  10. Christopher Carpenter & Sabina Postolek & Casey Warman, 2011. "Public-Place Smoking Laws and Exposure to Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS)," Working Papers 1260, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  11. M Arellano & O Bover, 1990. "Another Look at the Instrumental Variable Estimation of Error-Components Models," CEP Discussion Papers dp0007, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  12. 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.
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