Emery, Jamie

Project title: The Impact of Tobacco Smoking on Household Food Insecurity

Department: Economics

Faculty supervisor: Dr. Christopher Auld

"My proposed research is an empirical investigation of the relationship between tobacco smoking and food insecurity (FI)–inadequate or insecure access to food resulting from financial constraints. Evidence suggests that low-income smoking households are much more likely to be FI after controlling for other characteristics (Armour et. al., 2008). I will use microeconometric methods to establish whether this correlation is causal and assess the consequences of tobacco taxation on FI.

Cigarettes are addictive so, following price increases, low-income smoking households may crowd out purchases like food to maintain consumption. It follows that tobacco tax increases intended to deter smoking may have the consequence of increasing FI, which contributes to a myriad of adverse health and social outcomes. However, if higher taxes incentivize smokers to quit, or never initiate smoking in the first place, then tobacco taxes may reduce FI. Hence, theory cannot predict the impact of higher taxes on FI; it is an empirical question.

The proposed project contributes to the literature by estimating models of the effects of smoking on FI. I will combine data from the U.S. longitudinal Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) and information on tobacco taxes. Changes in tobacco taxes imposed at different times and amounts across states introduce exogenous variation in smoking, establishing causality. Variants of these models can determine if taxes increase or decrease FI, and which socioeconomic groups are most affected.

The implications of this work potentially include more effective smoking cessation programs and policies which increase the living standard of low-income smoking households."