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Plain packaging effective

Plain packaging of cigarettes (or better, aversive packaging since the “plainness” is dominated by a scary graphic health warning) is effective. Those who smoke claim the cigarettes “taste worse” with such packaging. So branding does affect the desirability of smoking and not only brand choice.

Interesting that the link delivering this message is in the […]

What will kill our kids

I have acquired something of a reputation as the economist who is obsessed with the harm of tobacco products. “There he goes again….” There might be an element of truth to this but maybe, because it reflects a reality, it is a relatively healthy obsession. I’ve been reading a report by the OECD (2012) on […]

Smoking & booze policy proposals

The proposals for increasing the tax on cigarettes by 17.5 cents per stick and for introducing a minimum price on booze are worthy of analysis. Proposals are also developed for dealing with obesity but I will not discuss those here.

The report by the National Preventative Health Strategy is here.


Refusing to consult foxes on welfare of chickens

160 countries have refused to admit cancer producers into discussions on limiting the global spread of cigarettes.  The countries argued there is a fundamental conflict between the interests of public health and those of cigarette producers.  That is obviously true.

Meanwhile, the Lancet reports that, at current smoking rates, 100 million Chinese men will die as a consequence […]

More deceit from big tobacco

This article in The Age suggesting that tobacco companies knew that ciarettes contain a pollonium isotope that makes smoking a packet and a half of cigarettes equivalent in radiation exposure to 300 chest X-rays per year.  They kept quiet about it as they have with some many of the other deadly features of this habit. The […]

A break from blogging

Apologies to readers for the recent lack of posting. I have been busy lately with preparations for forthcoming teaching and have been travelling. Hopefully things will normalise over the next week or so.

On Friday this week I am presenting a seminar on ‘Policies for Reducing the Costs of Cigarette Smoking in Australia’ (a much […]

Last words: Environmental tobacco smoke

‘Last twinges of a coffin posting this book where the awning flaps a distant thank-you’. (William S. Burroughs)

The US Surgeon General’s ‘Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoking’ is a massive 19MB document with a reasonably accessible Executive Summary. The evidence is mainly for the US but many arguments apply to Australia. It […]

No need for moral panic over drugs

I have pointed out repeatedly that drug use in Australia is under control. Cigarette, heroin, amphetamine and cannabis consumption are declining and alcohol consumption is roughly stable. It is the reason I don’t support moves to reform drug laws on the grounds that current laws have failed – they have not failed at all.

An […]

Do higher cigarette prices make smokers better off?

Economists have long searched for goods they can tax which impose no deadweight losses (DWLs) on society. Henry George supposed that assets like land which are in fixed supply can be taxed without social costs since customer demands will not change and supply will not change – the only effect of a tax on rents […]

Smoking bans deter the initiation of smoking

I have posted many times on the value of smoking bans. These stop passive smoking externalities but also increase the user costs of smoking which encourages quitting. They also improve financial returns in businesses subject to the bans. They also provide libertarians with a no-brainer way of padding out their blogsites with attacks on ‘nanny-staters’ […]

Putting your money where your butt is

This paper (that I learned about indirectly by reading an Andrew Leigh post) by Xavier Gine, Dean Karlan & Jonathon Zinman uses short-term incentives to deter people from smoking. It is an intriguing idea:

Abstract: We designed and tested a voluntary commitment product to help smokers quit smoking in the Philippines. Individuals who sign a […]

Social interactions & smoking

This paper by David Cutler and Edward Glaeser is worth a look.

Abstract: Are individuals more likely to smoke when they are surrounded by smokers? In this paper, we examine the evidence for peer effects in smoking. We address the endogeneity of peers by looking at the impact of workplace smoking bans on spousal and […]

Indigenous smoking yet again

I have been ridiculed at public fora for suggesting that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island (ATSI) smoking rates are an overwhelmingly important cause of the discrepancy between indigenous and non-indigenous mortality rates. The general response has been: ‘Harry you have a bee in your bonnet about smoking that ‘clouds’ your judgement’. It is true I […]

Australian drug use trends

The 2007 National Drug Strategy Household Survey has just been released (here). This is by far the most useful and accurate study of drug use trends in Australia.

Tobacco consumption continues to fall – less than 1 in 5 Australians smoked over the past 12 months. There is a very significant reduction in daily alcohol […]

Radon & lung cancer

This is the first of several posts that I will make on lung cancer. They are related to my work on cigarette smoking.

I am interested in the fact that the incidence of lung cancer was very low prior to cigarette smoking but that, these days, around 10-15% of lung cancers seem to be unrelated […]

US presidential candidates: Win votes by getting tough on smoking

This article in the NYT urges candidates in the current US presidential campaign to move with pace to adopt the urgings of the FDA with respect to tobacco regulation. Specifically they urge that nicotine be registered as an addictive drug and be regulated by the FDA on this basis.

I strongly concur. For 50 years […]

Paying aboriginals not to smoke

Andrew Leigh comments on Simon Chapman’s interesting proposal to pay aboriginals to stop smoking. Why not give such schemes a trial? They are cheaper and probably more effective than active treatment programs including use of NRTs. There is quite a deal of data on incentive effects of such programs in encouraging abstinence among users of […]

Lung cancer, who cares? Tobacco company funded research shows it isn’t much of a problem

Last year I cited some studies by Claudia Hensche which suggested that 80% of lung cancer deaths could be avoided through use of CT scans. I suggested in an update that these studies might be overoptimistic because there were far too many false positives and in any event fast-growing tumors are likely to occur between […]

Academic views paid for by big tobacco

It is nothing new to reveal that the cigarette companies lied their heads off about the dangers of cigarettes for 50 years. They knew 50 years ago that smoking cigarettes definitely caused lung cancer and while they debunked a range of animal-based experiments they were carrying out their own animal experiments which confirmed the conclusions […]

Smoking a major global killer

Most people have an approximate understanding of the dimensions of health problems associated with cigarette smoking. But mortality statistics make the issue clearly. It is a major killer generally and by far the major preventable cause of death in the world today with 100 million killed in the twentieth century and perhaps 1 […]