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Behavioral Welfare Economics and FDA Tobacco Regulations

Human Capital and Health Behavior

ISBN: 978-1-78635-466-2, eISBN: 978-1-78635-465-5

Publication date: 20 May 2017


The U.S. 2009 Tobacco Control Act opened the door for new antismoking policies by giving the Food and Drug Administration broad regulatory authority over the tobacco industry. We develop a behavioral welfare economics approach to conduct cost-benefit analysis of FDA tobacco regulations. We use a simple two-period model to develop expressions for the impact of tobacco control policies on social welfare. Our model includes: nudge and paternalistic regulations; an excise tax on cigarettes; internalities created by period 1 versus period 2 consumption; and externalities from cigarette consumption. Our analytical expressions show that in the presence of uncorrected internalities and externalities, a nudge or a tax to reduce cigarette consumption improves social welfare. In sharp contrast, a paternalistic regulation might either improve or worsen social welfare. Another important result is that the social welfare gains from new policies do not only depend on the size of the internalities and externalities, but also depend on the extent to which current policies already correct the problems. We link our analytical expressions to the graphical approach used in most previous studies and discuss the information needed to complete cost-benefit analysis of tobacco regulations. We use our model as a framework to reexamine the evidence base for strong conclusions about the size of the internalities, which is the key information needed.




We are grateful for the helpful comments from our discussant Ylenia Brilli and other participants at the international symposium on Human Capital and Health Behaviour, Centre for Health Economics, University of Gothenburg, May 19–20, 2016.


DeCicca, P., Kenkel, D., Liu, F. and Wang, H. (2017), "Behavioral Welfare Economics and FDA Tobacco Regulations", Human Capital and Health Behavior (Advances in Health Economics and Health Services Research, Vol. 25), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 143-179.



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