Media Briefings

ANTI-SMOKING POLICIES HELP FIGHT OBESITY

  • Published Date: April 2014

Anti-smoking measures, such as taxes and bans, eventually lead people to eat better and lose weight. That is the central conclusion of research by Luca Savorelli,Francesco Manaresi and Davide Dragone, to be presented at the Royal Economic Society’s 2014 annual conference. The three economists overturn the conventional wisdom that kicking the smoking habit is healthy but results in weight gain.

 

The research examines the impact of tobacco taxes and smoking bans on eating habits in the United States over the period 1998-2008. According to the report:

 

After the introduction of new anti-smoking policies, average bodyweight increases and the number of smokers decreases. But within two years, people adopt a healthier lifestyle and improve their eating habits, which leads to an overall reduction in the average bodyweight of the population.

 

There is a general improvement in the quality of people’s diet and a reduction in the caloric content of foods, with a reduction in body mass index of about 2.5%. This is a behavioural response to an increase of 10 cents on cigarette taxes.

 

Smoking bans in bar and pubs cause people to eat less, but also to eat less nutritious food; but smoking bans in restaurants cause people to eat more but better quality food.

 

In the medium run, smoking bans fight obesity by nudging people to improve their eating behaviour.

 

Co-author Luca Savorelli comments:

 

Preventing behaviour that leads to obesity or tobacco smoking is nowadays a priority both for national governments and the World Health Organization. In the United States, the national health system’s expenses amount to about $117 billion to fight smoking and $190 billion to fight obesity.’

 

Our research shows that quitting smoking can bring benefits on both fronts: not only does it reduce the risk of pulmonary, heart and cancer related diseases, butit also improves eating behaviour, leading to an increase in physical wellbeing.’

 

More…

 

Quitting smoking does not mean gaining weight. Anti-smoking policies and tobacco taxes in the United States have not only reduced smoking, but also helped to addressthe obesity epidemic.

 

These are the findings of research by Davide Dragone (University of Bologna), Francesco Manaresi (Bank of Italy), and Luca Savorelli (University of St Andrews) presented at the Royal Economic Society’s Annual Conference 2014. The three economists overturn the common place that kicking the habit of smoking is healthy, but results in weight gain.

 

Starting from the idea that smoking and eating are interdependent choices, the three scholars explain that smoking and obesity are complements, rather than substitutes.

 

Preventing behaviours that lead to obesity or to tobacco smoking is nowadays a priority both for national governments and the World Health Organization. In the United States, the national health system’s expenses amount to about $117 billion to fight smoking and $190 billion to fight obesity. Data show that the strong anti-smoking campaign in the last 40 years has substantially reduced smoking prevalence: in 1965, 40% of Americans were smokers; in 2007 only 20%.

 

In the same period, however, there has been a huge increase in obesity or morbid obesity (from 15% to 30%). As nicotine is an appetite suppressor and accelerates metabolism, it is common wisdom that anti-smoking campaigns contributed, to some extent, to increasing the average weight in the population, together with other factors, of course. This research shows the opposite effect.

 

The study – financed by FarmaFactoring Foundation and the Italian Association of Health Economists – highlights that, even though immediately after the introduction of new anti-smoking policies, bodyweight increases and smoking prevalence decreases, within two years, people adopt a healthier lifestyle and improve their eating habits. Eventually, the overall result is a reduction in the average bodyweight in the population, in comparison with the period before the introduction of anti-smoking policies.

 

Dr Savorelli says:

 

‘What we observed, referring to a representative sample of the US population from 1998 to 2008, is a general improvement in the quality of the diet and a reduction in the caloric content of foods, with a reduction in body mass index of about 2,5%. This is a behavioural response to an increase of 10 cents on cigarette taxes.

 

Smoking bans also play a role in modifying eating habits, with differential effects depending on the place they are enforced to. Smoking bans in bar and pubs induce a lower amount of food consumed, but also reduce the quality of food. In restaurants the effect is opposite: after the introduction of smoking bans, people eat more but better quality food.’

 

Drs Dragone, Manaresi and Savorelli reveal a bright side of anti-smoking policies that was previously unknown: not only do such measures reduce the number of smokers, but also in the medium run contribute to tackling obesity, nudging people to improve their eating behaviour.

 

Quitting smoking benefits are thus twofold: not only does it reduce the risk of pulmonary, heart and cancer related diseases, but it also improves eating behaviour, inducing an increase in physical wellbeing.

 

ENDS

 

 

Notes for Editors:

‘Tobacco Taxes and Smoking Bans Impact Differently on Obesity and Eating’ by Luca Savorelli, Francesco Manaresi and Davide Dragone

 

For further information, contact:

Luca Savorelli, luca.savorelli@st-andrews.ac.uk, +44 7526 162287

Dr Davide Dragone, davide.dragone@unibo.it

Romesh Vaitilingam: romesh@vaitilingam.com, +44 7768 661095