Why Do Europeans Smoke More than Americans?

David M. Cutler and Edward L. Glaeser

in Developments in the Economics of Aging

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print April 2009 | ISBN: 9780226903354
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226903361 | DOI:
Why Do Europeans Smoke More than Americans?

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This chapter examines three potential explanations for the low level of smoking in the United States relative to other developed countries. First, it asks whether the effective price of cigarettes, which reflects both taxes and other regulations on tobacco, is higher in the United States. Second, it looks at whether higher American income levels might explain the lower level of U.S. cigarette consumption, if better health is a luxury good. Third, it considers whether differences in beliefs about the consequences of smoking might be responsible for American exceptionalism. After analyzing the data, the researchers firmly reject the first hypothesis, that differences in cigarette prices and regulations explain differences in smoking rates between Europe and the United States. Moving on to the second hypothesis, the researchers find that income differences explain no more than one quarter of the difference between European and American smoking rates. The most important factor appears to be differences in beliefs about the health consequences of smoking. While 91 percent of Americans think that cigarettes cause cancer, only 84 percent of Europeans share that view.

Keywords: cigarette prices; income levels; smoking; United States; Europe; cancer

Chapter.  9844 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Public Economics

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