Does smoking cessation lower adults' sense of overall well-being?

04/20/2016

The answer is No, report Diana Weinhold of the London School of Economics and Frank Chaloupka of the University of Illinois in the journal Tobacco Control. In fact, the authors report "an increase in subjective well-being from quitting smoking is statistically significant and also of a meaningful magnitude."

Drawing their data from a longitudinal Dutch online survey, the authors analyzed the relationship between subjective well-being and smoking status reported by more than 5,000 adults across five years. The researchers controlled for factors associated with differences in smoking status and well-being, including health, socioeconomic, and demographic characteristics, as well as two personality characteristics -- habitual drug or alcohol use and sensitivity to stress.

This work is among a series of efforts by internationally recognized economists to address the scientific quality of the economic methods used by the Food and Drug Administration for evaluating antitobacco regulation. In 2014, Chaloupka, a distinguished professor of economics at the University of Illinois at Chicago, co-authored a white paper critical of an application of a "lost pleasure" analysis by the FDA when considering its graphic warning label regulation.

U.S. government agencies are required by law to assess the economic impact of proposed regulations. As part of this assessment, the FDA considers potential lost subjective well-being of ex-smokers as a cost of any proposed tobacco control regulation.

"This practice, which significantly limits regulatory capacity, is premised on the assumption that there is in fact a loss in SWB among ex-smokers," write Weinhold and Chaloupka. After their analysis, the authors conclude that that assumption is wrong.

They also examined whether the subjective well-being of smokers who quit under strict tobacco control policies differs from that of those who quit in a "more relaxed regulatory environment." Again, the answer was No.

Read this article's abstract on the National Library of Medicine's PubMed. Access the article on the Tobacco Control website.

Summary written by Veronica Johnston, IHRP communications director.