"Up in Smoke: Tobacco Use, Expenditure on Food, and Child Malnutrition in Developing Countries" by Professor Block

Economic Development and Cultural Change

This paper explores the impact of expenditure on smoking products in low-income households on child nutrition, as mediated via reduced food expenditure. On the basis of data from a large household survey in rural Indonesia, the study finds that low-income households containing at least one smoker tend to divert a significant amount of scarce income to tobacco products and that relatively more of the diversion is drawn from food than from nonfood purchases. This results in a real decline in the quantity and quality of food consumed in the poorest households, which is associated with a statistically significant reduction in the nutritional status of children in those households. In other words, parental smoking increases child malnutrition via its displacement effect on food consumption-an intuitive but rarely documented empirical finding. Attention is needed to finding appropriate mechanisms for enhancing food and nutrition in poorest households in tandem with investments in public health information systems that highlight these indirect, as well as direct, links between smoking and child well-being.