Jeffrey E. Harris, Mariana Gerstenblüth, Patricia Triunfo, 28 October 2018

The Surgeon General of the United States concluded in 1988 that the nicotine in cigarette smoke is an addictive drug. This column reports on an experiment which revealed that smokers, when confronted with warnings that were repugnant and threatening to many of them, could still make choices consistent with the widely accepted standard rules of rational choice. The model of the two-self economic man offers one explanation for how the participants could engage in such apparently rational behaviour in the face of their addiction.

Michael Grossman, Dhaval Dave, Henry Saffer, Don Kenkel, Daniel Dench, 05 May 2018

In 2016, the US Food and Drug Administration extended its authority over tobacco products to include e-cigarettes. This column argues that advertising restrictions and taxes on e-cigarettes could discourage people from quitting traditional cigarettes. However, little is known about the long-term health consequences of the use of e-cigarettes, so it is too early to conclude that unrestricted advertising of e-cigarettes and low or no federal taxation would advance public health.

Ali Palali, Jan van Ours, 30 September 2017

Despite decades-long efforts to deter its consumption, tobacco continues to be one of the world’s biggest health threats. Studies of tobacco control policies show they have had little impact on overall smoking rates. This column assesses the impact of such policies – from bans to advertising controls – on rates of smoking initiation across Europe. Control policies have no significant effect on the age of onset of smoking, and do not seem to discourage young individuals from starting to smoke. To prevent take-up of smoking, policies must address this directly.

Silda Nikaj, Joshua J. Miller, John Tauras, 28 July 2016

Progress in adopting smoking bans across the US has been slow, despite a majority of Americans supporting a ban in public places. This column uses aggregate and establishment-level data from Texas to examine the economic effects of smoking bans on bars and restaurants. The results suggest that bars and restaurants are not adversely affected by the adoption of a ban. 

Jan van Ours, Ali Palali, 16 October 2015

A major aim of cigarette taxes and tobacco control policies is to encourage smokers to quit. It is therefore important to understand the dynamics of quitting decisions in two-smoker couples. This column uses Dutch data to examine whether spousal peer effects exist for smoking cessation decisions. After controlling for the fact that couples are more likely to be similar to begin with, no evidence is found of one partner’s decision to quit affecting their spouse’s decision.

Joan Costa-i-Font, 12 April 2013

Are healthy lifestyles purely about people’s personal choices? Can we explain why specific people are fit, non-smokers and risk-averse? This column argues that policymaking can incentivise health behaviour but that monetary incentives are not the only approach. Academics and policymakers should aim to influence social norms and society’s role models when monetary incentives are not enough.

Matteo Galizzi, Marisa Miraldo, 12 June 2010

Smoking, heavy drinking, and being overweight are known causes of disease. This column presents experimental evidence to try and understand why people ignore this advice. It compares lifestyle choices with people’s attitudes to risk and their patience, finding that while people with an unhealthy lifestyle are no more risk-loving than other people, they are more impatient.

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