Follow us
Publications Commentary Research People Events News Resources and Videos About IFS
Home Publications Anti-smoking policies and smoker well-being: evidence from Britain.

Anti-smoking policies and smoker well-being: evidence from Britain.

Andrew Leicester and Peter Levell
IFS Working Paper W13/13

Anti-smoking policies can in theory make smokers better off, by helping smokers with time-inconsistent preferences commit to giving up or reducing the amount they smoke. We use almost 20 years of British individual-level panel data to explore the impact on self-reported psychological well-being of two policy interventions: large real-terms increases in tobacco excise taxes and bans on smoking in public places. We use a difference-in-differences approach to compare the effects on well-being for smokers and non-smokers. Smoking behaviour is likely to be influenced by policy interventions, leading to a selection problem if outcomes are compared across current smokers and non-smokers. We consider different ways of grouping individuals into 'treatment' and 'control' groups based on demographic characteristics and observed smoking histories. We find fairly robust evidence that increases in tobacco taxes raise the relative well-being of likely smokers. Exploiting regional variation in the timing of the smoking ban across British regions, we also find some evidence that it raised smoker well-being, though the effect is not robust to the measure of well-being. The economic significance of the effects also appears to be quite modest. Our findings therefore give cautious support to the view that such interventions are at least partly justifiablebecause of the benefits they have for smokers themselves.

This research was funded by the Nuffield Foundation

More on this topic

Briefing note
Soft drink taxes have been implemented in 50 jurisdictions (as of August 2019). We review the evidence on their effects, summarising 27 studies of taxes in 11 jurisdictions.
Observation
Over 50 countries and localities, including the UK, have recently introduced taxes on soft drinks. In new IFS research funded by the National Institute of Health Research under the Department for Health’s Obesity Policy Research Unit, we survey the evidence on the effects of soft drink taxes on ...
External publication
Advertising of high fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) food and drink during children’s television programmes has been banned in the UK since 2007. The Government has recently announced that they will consult on further advertising restrictions for products high in fat, salt and sugar on TV.
Journal article | Journal of Public Economics
Alcohol consumption is associated with costs to society from anti-social behaviour, crime and public costs of policing and health care. These externalities are non-linear in alcohol consumption, with a small number of heavy drinkers creating the majority of the costs. Governments attempt to reduce ...
Observation
The government has launched a consultation on whether to ban the advertising of food and drink high in fat, salt or sugar on television before the 9pm watershed. But the impact of such restrictions would depend on how firms change their advertising strategies following the ban.