Smoking and Endogenous Mortality: Does Heterogeneity in Life Expectancy Explain Differences in Smoking Behavior?

Apr 2019 |

Authors: Valerie Lechene, Jerome Adda, University College London and IFS


This paper proposes a joint model of tobacco consumption and mortality over the life-cycle. The decision to smoke is a trade off between current utility derived from smoking and a mortality risk increasing with age. Individuals with a longer potential life expectancy have more incentive to cut back on smoking and thus self select out of smoking. Using detailed data on mortality, morbidity and smoking we are able to identify this selection effect. We empirically evaluate its importance in explaining heterogeneity in smoking behaviour among adults. We find that heterogeneity in potential life expectancy explains part of the heterogeneity in smoking behaviour, even when conditioning on sex, education and occupation and information on other risky behaviour. When we embed heterogeneous potential life expectancies within a rational addiction model of smoking, we find that the model is able to match the life cycle profiles of smoking.
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