Academic journal article Contemporary Economic Policy

The Impact of Prices and Control Policies on Cigarette Smoking among College Students

Academic journal article Contemporary Economic Policy

The Impact of Prices and Control Policies on Cigarette Smoking among College Students

Article excerpt


Smoking among youths and young adults rose throughout the 1990s. Numerous policies were enacted to try to reverse this trend. However, little is known about the impact these policies have on the smoking behavior of young adults. This article uses a dichotomous indicator of daily smoking participation in the past 30 days, an ordered measure representing the frequency of cigarette consumption, and a quasi-continuous measure of the number of cigarettes smoked per day on average to examine the impact of cigarette prices, clean indoor air laws, and campus-level smoking policies on the smoking behaviors of a 1997 cross section of college students. The results of the analysis indicate that higher cigarette prices are associated with lower smoking participation and lower levels of use among college student smokers. Local-and state-level clean indoor air restrictions have a cumulative impact on the level of smoking by current smokers. Complete smoking bans on college campuses are associated with lower levels of smokin g among current smokers but have no significant impact on smoking participation. Bans on cigarette advertising on campus as well as bans on the sale of cigarettes on campus have no significant effect on the smoking behavior of college students. (JEL I1)


Over the past few decades, the American public has observed various antitobacco campaigns. Numerous health policy efforts have aimed to discourage tobacco consumption and over the years have created a variety of tobacco control instruments. Policies such as cigarette tax hikes, restrictions on smoking in public places and worksites, advertising constraints, antitobacco advertising, and the issuance of health warnings have all been designed to reduce tobacco use. In general, researchers have found that although smoking among U.S. adults has declined over the past 30 years, tobacco use remains a popular activity among adolescents and young adults. This has led many to question whether such policies are an effective way of discouraging smoking among these younger populations.

Wechsler et al. (1998b) found in a comparison of the 1993 and 1997 Harvard College Alcohol Study samples that cigarette smoking prevalence among college students increased over this time period by 27.8%. An increase was observed at 99 of the 116 colleges in the sample. [1] The authors conclude that the increase in smoking appears to be a consequence of the rise in smoking observed in the early 1990s among high school and middle school students. Similarly, evidence from the Monitoring the Future survey shows that smoking participation has been increasing among high school students in recent years. Statistics from the Monitoring the Future Study indicate that current smoking rates among college students, an important subset of the young adult population, have risen during this period but not nearly as fast as smoking rates among high school seniors (see Table 1). One possible explanation for this divergence in smoking trends between high school students and young adults may have to do with differences in their responsiveness to tobacco control policies.

Several recent articles have examined the impact of tobacco control policies on the smoking behavior of youths, focusing predominantly on youths in high school (Chaloupka and Grossman, 1996; Chaloupka and Pacula, 1998; Evans and Huang, 1998). This article extends this research by examining the impact of these policies on cigarette smoking by young adults, specifically college students. The college population is a particularly important one because individuals in this age group are still in the process of establishing their smoking behavior (USDHHS, 1994). Thus, policies specifically designed to reduce smoking can have a meaningful and significant effect on the developing smoking behaviors of this young population. Furthermore, the smoking behavior of college students provides important insights into the smoking trends of tomorrow's adult population. …

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