Belarusian Economic Research and Outreach Center

FREE Policy Brief: Can Anti-Smoking Campaigns Increase Obesity? Evidence from Belarus

In this brief, we discuss the possible effects of an anti-tobacco campaign on obesity levels in Belarus based on results of Amialchuk et al (2012). Both smoking and obesity are among the main health concerns in Belarus. Negative correlation between smoking and body weight is well documented, but can anti-tobacco campaign cause an increase in obesity rates? Results of studies from developed countries provide mixed evidence. In Amialchuk et al (2012), we use household survey data from Belarus to establish the link between smoking and body mass index (BMI). We use cigarette prices and regional smoking prevalence as instruments for smoking, and find a negative effect of smoking on BMI. Moreover, using the quantile regression approach, we find that smoking has different effects on body weight for different BMI quantiles, with the largest negative effect in the upper part of the conditional BMI distribution. These findings suggest that anti-tobacco campaigns may slightly increase obesity rates, and campaigns should therefore ideally also include measures to promote a healthy lifestyle. On the other hand, the potentially modest weight gain from an anti-tobacco campaign is likely to be more than offset by the general improvements in health.