Saturday, November 10, 2012: 1:45 PM-3:15 PM
International D (Sheraton Baltimore City Center Hotel)
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
Organizers: Johanna Catherine Maclean, University of Pennsylvania
Moderators: Joshua A Price, University of Texas at Arlington and Phillip DeCicca, McMaster University
Chairs: Joseph Price, Brigham Young University
This session includes three empirical studies that assess the health effects of public policies – cigarette taxes, smoking bans, and medical marijuana laws (MML) – on smoking outcomes in understudied populations and suicide, a health outcome that has received little research attention from economists. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the U.S. (USHHS, 2010). The prevalence of smoking is 21.8% (MMWR, 2010), well above the nationally stated objective of 12% (USHHS, 2010). Suicide takes the lives of nearly a million Americans each year (Goldsmith et al, 2002) and ranks as the 10th leading cause of death (National Vital Statistics, 2010). Studies one and three focus on growing sectors of the U.S. population: non-natives and the elderly. Understanding how accepted public health policies operate in these sub-populations is necessary for improving population health and containing health care costs.
Paper one provides new information on the tax elasticity of non-natives using the 1995-2007 Current Population Survey Tobacco Use Supplements (TUS). The TUS contains detailed information on country of origin, age at immigration, and years since immigration, and includes nearly 200,000 non-natives. Multiple smoking outcomes are examined: smoking, volume, cessation, relapse, and initiation. The study investigates how tax responsiveness varies with age at immigration and time since immigration. Results suggest that cigarette taxes are an effective policy lever for non-natives, although heterogeneity by country of origin is observed. Policies become more effective with time since immigration, but are constant by age at immigration.
The second paper draws state-level suicide data from the Centers for Disease Control between 1990 and 2007 to estimate the effect of MML on completed suicides. The study uses standard difference-in-difference models with state-specific linear time trends and controls for time-varying state policies to account for between state differences that are correlated with both MMLs and suicide rates. Findings imply that the legalization of medical marijuana leads to a 5% reduction in the completed suicide rate, with higher reductions among males 20-39 years. This study is the first to document the effect of MML on completed suicides. Combing these findings with existing work (Anderson et al, 2011) raise the possibility that MMLs reduce the risk of suicide by decreasing alcohol consumption.
The third paper uses the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) to investigate the effectiveness of smoking policies on elderly smoking behaviors. This study extends the literature in several substantial ways. Multiple smoking outcomes are examined: smoking, heavy smoking, volume, cessation, and relapse. The longitudinal nature of the HRS allows inclusion of person fixed effects to control for omitted variable bias. Because the HRS is a large survey of the elderly, separate analysis of the near-elderly (51-64), elderly (65-79), and oldest old (80+) is possible. The HRS contains detailed smoking histories and effects can be estimated for lifetime heavy smokers and non-lifetime heavy smokers. Findings imply that the elderly do respond to standard anti-smoking policies, although responsiveness varies across outcome, policy, age, gender, and smoking history.