Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: Medical Marijuana Laws and Tobacco Use

Anna Choi, Dhaval Dave, Joseph J. Sabia

NBER Working Paper No. 22554
Issued in August 2016, Revised in June 2017
NBER Program(s):Health Care, Health Economics, Law and Economics

This study is the first to examine whether medical marijuana laws (MMLs) have affected the trajectory of a decades-long decline in adult tobacco use in the United States. First, using data from the National Survey of Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), we establish that MMLs are associated with a 0.7 to 2.4 percentage-point increase in adult marijuana consumption. Then, using data from the NSDUH, the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), and the Current Population Survey Tobacco Use Supplements (CPS-TUS), we find no evidence that MMLs increased tobacco use. Rather, we find that MMLs enacted between the early 1990s and 2015 are associated with a 0.4 to 0.7 percentage-point reduction in adult tobacco consumption. These findings suggest that tobacco and marijuana are substitutes for many users. We also uncover some evidence of heterogeneity in the effects of MMLs (i) across the age distribution, and (ii) across early and later-adopting states.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w22554

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