Kids Are Smoking Because They Think They're Fat

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Photo: Flickr/cometstarmoon

According to a new NBER working paper, “among teenagers who smoke frequently, 46% of girls and 30% of boys are smoking in part to control their weight. This practice is significantly more common among youths who describe themselves as too fat than those who describe themselves as about the right weight.””Smoking for weight control is particularly common among white girls and those who consider themselves too fat.”

John Cawley and Stephanie von Hinke Kessler Scholder, the authors of this study, argue this is something important to consider for regulators trying to change behaviour.

“Under reasonable assumptions, the demand for cigarettes is less price elastic among those who smoke for weight control,” they write.  “Thus, taxes on cigarettes will result in less behaviour change (but more revenue collection and less deadweight loss) among those for whom the demand for cigarettes is a derived demand”

In other words, if you raise taxes on cigarettes, teens will just find themselves spending more on cigarettes, not smoking less.

“Public health efforts to reduce smoking initiation and encourage cessation may wish to design campaigns to alter the derived nature of cigarette demand, especially among adolescent girls.”

Download the paper at

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