NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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Information Source and Cigarettes: Experimental Evidence on the Messenger Effect

Johanna Catherine Maclean, John Buckell, Joachim Marti

NBER Working Paper No. 25632
Issued in March 2019
NBER Program(s):Program on the Economics of Aging, Health Economics Program

We examine the importance of information source (the ‘messenger’) on consumer choice in the context of cigarettes, electronic and tobacco. We proxy choice with intentions to use cigarettes and risk perceptions. We experimentally vary the messenger across three information sources: government, physicians, and private companies. We compare effects relative to a no source control in a sample of adult smokers. Neoclassical theory predicts that the information source, or the messenger, should not influence choices. Behavioral economics suggests that the messenger can have important implications for how consumers process information and, in turn, make decisions. Our findings provide evidence in line with behavioral economics: the messenger influences intention to use e-cigarettes, and risk perceptions about e-cigarettes and tobacco cigarettes. Private companies appear to be particularly important messengers and are potentially the economic agents most likely to shape the future adult demand for cigarettes.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w25632

 
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