Should You Smoke? – The Smoking Debate Continues

Milana Mihic

Smoking Debate

Mindthis aims to outline the benefits and costs of smoking in order to break down the smoking debate. Milana begins with how government bodies manage non-smoking policies and explain the opportunity costs for every economic player involved. Based on Milana’s work, Shaaz addresses the social implications of smoking and objectively explain the hidden benefits for young professionals. The goal is not to promote smoking but rather help non smokers understand their opportunity cost. 

Free Markets, Free Smokers, and Many Dead

In Germany, there is a heated smoking debate about whether or not they should ban smoking in bars and clubs. A smoking debate in Ontario, Canada had occurred not too long ago.

When it comes to public service decisions about any policy issue, there is a cost-benefit analysis needed in order to make every cost and benefit comparable. The tobacco industry might bring lots of tax revenues to the government and a policy deterring smoking might distort the demand even more than with the taxes, but there are externalities caused by the use of cigarettes that would encounter costs in terms of health services, if it’s provided by the public sector. As a public-welfare-oriented state, the government should try to estimate all the possible outcomes of the policies as opposed to the status quo.

To underscore the dangers of smoking we point to the World Health Organization that state the use of tobacco has directly caused 100 million deaths in the 20th century and is projected to cause one billion deaths in the 21st century.

1950s Smoking Ad

Smoking ads are relict of the past due to the smoking debate.

Free to Die: Hidden Costs Behind Each Puff – The Economics Aspects of the Smoking Debate

Despite being a free-market supporter, I must admit that there is a limit to free markets. Yes you can choose freely what does not include the health cost. This invisible cost causes most of the smokers think they are paying 10 dollars for the pack, which is an illusion. Add to that the 50% probability of suffering from a health problem directly caused by cigarettes.

This is one of the reasons why government intervention is needed to show people the real price. If then, with all the education and advertising on negative effects of the cigarettes you still want to smoke, then you are just an irrational agent which gives us economics specialists a huge headache.

Since 1999, there have been various policies implemented in order to reduce the cigarette consumption in Canada. The data clearly indicates the percentage of population that smokes has decreased which might be, a consequence of these policies. But the real effects of the tobacco epidemic are just starting now since there is a lag between the first cigarette smoked in 1999 and the effect of it in 2012.

Youth Smoking and Social Smokers

One of the basic supply-demand topics learned in microeconomics

Marlboro Smoking Ad

Should Tobacco Companies Be Allowed to Advertise?

classes is the concept of complementary and substitute goods. The basic example that was given in my textbook was that complementary goods are like hotdogs and ketchup: if the price of ketchup increases, the demand for hotdogs will decrease, because of the fact that you could supposedly not eat hotdogs without ketchup. On the other hand, ketchup and mayo would be substitute goods in this case: if the price of ketchup increases, the demand for mayo will increase and people would eat hotdogs with mayo instead. What does applying this concept to alcohol and cigarettes give us?

Intuitively, I would say that these two goods are complements. As an example, let’s take the social smoker. For some people being at a party and drinking just makes you want to smoke and holding a beer is nonsense without having a cigarette between the index and middle finger.

Data > Emotion

A survey conducted in Germany by Tochmann et. Al.  uses a Tobit regression to show that alcohol and cigarettes are in fact complements. However, this result only applies to men not women. (the data was only for men). Therefore, from basic economic theory, if the price of alcohol doubles, we would see a decreased amount of alcohol consumed (or people making vodka in their bathtubs) and of cigarettes.

There needs to be a cultural change in the smoking debate, moving away from the image created by occasional smokers as being socially preferable, towards an anti-smoking culture, otherwise the cost to society will just increase. Going back to the implication of the government in topics such as the use of tobacco, there should be a concern towards young adults since the group of smokers from 18 to 24 years old is the only one that doesn’t have a decreasing pattern of smoking. Moreover, smoking habits are most likely established before hitting 20 years old via thèse social smokers.

Is It Time to Smoke? – The Social Aspects of the Smoking Debate

Shaaz will now objectively explain his side of the smoking debate: the hidden benefits of smoking for young professionals. His goal is not to promote smoking but rather help non-smokers understand their opportunity cost. 

Networking: Personal and Professional

If we factor out the emotions that go behind the attacks against smoking/smokers, some clear benefits appear for young professionals.  Smoking is a cultural practice, one that creates an elite group where only certain people can join. That elusive “do you have a lighter?” question can lead to a great networking chance with potential employers or strengthen the bond between current ones.  There is an unexplainable bond between those who smoke, a bond based on understanding the risks of smoking yet not caring, living a life not based on fear but pleasure.

No Smoking

Lighting up someone’s cigarette is worth much more than an excellent handshake. You’re at a bar with some friends and after a few beers you walk out for a cigarette. You have left your circle of friends and are outside probably in the cold just puffing away. Some professional strangers who are already outside with you start conversing. Some conversations will be mediocre while others have the potential to build your network both professionals and personally.

From Zurich to London to Dubai, I have seen important professional relations come alive during a smoke outside. For example,  instead of leaving your friends for a smoke, two of them go with you. The bond between you three will only intensify, as your conversations will be exclusive. Smoking is about feeding into each other’s hedonistic addiction.

It Looks Hot

Simply put there is no denying this obvious benefit, you look better.

Don Draper Smoking

Mad Men dramatizes the start of the smoking debate in the 1960s. Don Draper is an example of how smoking looks hot.

I Don’t Smoke

Despite all of what I have just said, I don’t smoke. Without a doubt you look powerful, sexy, and have access to an certain social/professional scene. However, ageing skin, yellow teeth, useless lungs, and potentially cancer are costs that outweigh the benefits for young professionals. Personally speaking, smoking even “a bit” still limits your chances of ever reaching your true potential. What’s the point in working hard only to be slowly killing yourself one puff at a time.

Opportunity Cost of Not Smoking

But how does one minimize the opportunity cost of not smoking? It’s not perfect but one could carrying a lighter or pack of matches which allows you part membership into the informal “club of smokers”. I call it Second Hand Networking as you will endure second hand smoking as a cost but will not be isolated in those spontaneous networking chances. This is still only a recommendation for those hardcore networkers not the causals.

I refuse to demonize those who decide to smoke. Yet, I do support the policies mentioned earlier by Milana which were implemented in order to reduce the cigarette consumption in Canada, even if promoting accessories like Subohm vape tanks, e-cigarettes etc. instead. As she noted, the data clearly indicates the percentage of population that smokes has decreased which might be, a consequence of these policies. So don’t smoke, but manage the opportunity cost of being a non smoking young professional.

Anti-smoking Ad