Belarusian Economic Research and Outreach Center

Smoking and Obesity Revisited: Evidence from Belarus

It has been hypothesized that the rising obesity rates in many countries are an unintended consequence of anti-smoking policies. However, evidence of a causal effect of smoking on body weight is mixed. Using a large nationally representative survey from Belarus, we estimate the effect of the number of cigarettes smoked per day on individuals’ body mass index (BMI) and on the probability of being overweight and obese. We instrument smoking variable using cigarette prices and group-specific smoking rates. We find that smoking is negatively related to BMI, probability of overweight and obesity, and the magnitude of the estimated effects is comparable to the estimates from other countries. In addition, quantile regression analysis uncovers that the negative effect of smoking is higher at the higher percentiles of BMI distribution. Same differences in the effect are found using ordered probit regression analyses. Our results uncover a small negative effect of smoking on body size and obesity. These findings suggest that, while
smoking cessation may lead to some weight gain among subjects of healthy weight and above healthy weight, the effects on obese subjects are small and should not be expected to significantly increase obesity prevalence.