All in the Family: Does Family Smoking Cause Youth Initiation?

Laura Fumagalli 1, Dean Lillard2
1Iser, University of essex, UK, 2Department of Policy Analysis and Management, Cornell University, USA

Smoking is one of the leading preventable causes of death in every developed economy. In the U.S. smoking is estimated to be a significant cause of more than 400,000 premature deaths annually. Recent policy debates in most countries have tended to focus on how to prevent youth from starting to smoke. Embedded in these debates is a stylized fact that has yet to be established in a systematic way - whether smoking by older family member (parents and/or older siblings) causes youth to be more likely to take up smoking. Many policy experts assume the answer to this question is obvious. In this paper we use data from the British Household Panel Study to try to estimate whether the relationship is causal. We estimate both naive models that ignore the endogeneity of the smoking decisions of family members and models that control for those choices. The results suggest that failing to control for the endogenous choice of parents to smoke leads to incorrect inferences.

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