On the Demand for Smoking Quitlines

By Goel, Rajeev K. | Journal of Economics and Finance, January 2015 | Go to article overview

On the Demand for Smoking Quitlines


Goel, Rajeev K., Journal of Economics and Finance


1 Introduction

Given the habit forming nature of smoking, smokers looking to give up smoking face difficulties in doing so. Thus, governments often try to facilitate quitting by various means, including providing information and subsidizing treatments. In this context, mainly due to their ability to aid smokers quit smoking across large geographic areas, smoking quitlines have proven to be effective tools in the fight for smoking cessation.1 As a result, public quitline services are now available in all 50 U.S. states (see www. naquitline.org for details). However, formal research on quitlines, especially on economic aspects, has been lacking and the present research attempts to make a contribution by estimating the demand for quitlines. Besides purely academic interest, policymakers facing tough resource allocation decisions would also be interested in ascertaining factors driving the demand for quitlines. This is even more pertinent as quitlines face competition from new technologies with the spread of the internet. How do internet resources affect the demand for quitlines?

The broader literature has in recent years considered the importance of studying the factors driving the propensity to quit smoking (Goel (2007), Hammar and Carlsson (2005), Hsieh (1998) and Laxminarayan and Deolalikar (2004)). However, there is relatively less attention to the study of quitlines, especially their economic aspects (see Anderson and Zhu (2007) and Cummins et al. (2007)). With the growing popularity and effectiveness of quitlines in helping smokers quit smoking (see Anderson and Zhu (2007), American Lung Association (2010)), it is useful that a formal study of the factors driving the demand for quitlines be conducted.

Recognizing the increasing role of the internet in information dissemination, we focus on its effects. However, given its multifaceted nature, the role of the internet is not easily captured. On the one hand, there are numerous general internet-based cessation resources by various sources (health practitioners, government organizations, NGOs, general public etc.); while on the other hand, state-specific quitline internet resources by health authorities in individual U.S. states exist. These include: (i) information about the quitline in a state; (ii) information about tobacco cessation; (iii) self-directed web-based intervention; (iv) automated e-mail messages; (v) chat rooms; and (vi) interactive counseling and/or e-mail messaging with cessation counselor (www.naquitline.org). However, there is considerable variation in the prevalence of these web-based resources across individual states. In 2010, only two states, New York and Wyoming, had all six of these internet resources available, while 17 states (Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Idaho, Kentucky, Massachusetts Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont and Washington) had none of the six available.

To get a handle on the role of the internet, we employ two measures of internet resources for smokers looking to quit smoking. These indicators incorporate a general and a specific measure. A general measure, Internet, captures internet hits (number of webpages following an internet search) about smoking cessation resources employing a widely used internet search engine, and a specific measure, No Web, identifies the 17 states without a specific internet program about quitlines in any of the six listed categories. These controls are employed along with other factors to study the determinants of quitline demand. Which factors significantly affect the demand for quitlines? In a nutshell, the results find non-internet influences on quitline demand to be relatively more powerful. The formal setup follows.

2 Model and data

In the absence of a specific economic study on the demand for quitlines to guide us and help anchor the discussion, we borrow from the broader economics literature regarding economic agents (in this case smokers considering quitting) weighing the relative costs and benefits of their propensity to call smoking quitlines (see Chaloupka and Warner (2000), Goel and Nelson (2008) and U. …

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