Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Why Do New Yorkers Smoke So Much?

Economist Tyler Cowen posts an interesting question on his blog: why do New Yorkers seem to smoke so much more than people from other places/cities? Here are the possible reasons he offers:

1. Social networkers head to Manhattan, and social networkers smoke.
2. In Manhattan it is more important to signal you are cool.
3. Air pollution is higher, so the marginal health cost of smoking is less.
4. New York is colder, and that makes cigarettes more enjoyable.
5. The "artsy" variable is doing most of the work; of course this is related to #1 and #2.
6. NYC life is more stressful, and smoking calms some of these people down.
7. Many of them are poseurs, and these smokers don't have such valuable human capital.

I'd bet first on #2, and also on #7, but I don't have a good theory that will explain the rest of the cross-sectional evidence.

Which hypothesis do you find convincing? Any additional ones to add?

(Source: Marginal Revolution)


Anonymous said...

I find Tyler Cowen's hypothesis a little ridiculous. I think the only one that really holds any realavance is #6. Many people smoke because it eases their nerves, and New York is a very chaotic place. I also thought it was interesting in one of the comments on Tyler Cowens article, one person stated how the population density is so much higher, and althought it may seem as though more people are smoking, it may just be that there are so many people, but the same percentage smoke. I think the reference back to the Friends Episode was very true as well. Some people begin smoking only because the friends or people are around are smokers. If you feel you are being "left out" you may be more likely to start smoking.

Sara Diehl

Anonymous said...

When I first read Cowen's hypotheses, i agreed with numbers 1, 2, and 5. New York is full of people who are edgy and up-to-date with the latest trends. Although smoking is less socially acceptable than drinking in the US, many famous actors and actresses, models, and other superstars are often seen sporting the cigarette, which may be an explanation for smoking's stylish reputation in New York.
Reading hypothesis #9, however, made me realize that overall, smoking is distasteful and unacceptable to many people. New York's huge and dense population most likely causes the illusion of more smokers.
Another possibility could be that their are more pedestrians and people using public transportation than their are car owners, so people have less down time to smoke in the privacy of their cars or home, and opt to smoke on-the-go...just a thought.


Anonymous said...

In Mr. Cowen's article about his hypothesis, I agree with his extra statement that is his 9th hypothesis. He says that since all the smoking must be done in the streets instead of inside the workplace, it creates the illusion that more people smoke than the actual number that do. I could see how seeing many people in the street can create the stereotype that all New Yorkers smoke, but it actually creates a false facade and people are only exposed to the ones that do in a small area. I also agree with the hypothesis with the stress. Smoking has been known to ease the stress and New York is a stressful city. Many of the hypothesis work though.

-Chris Templin

Anonymous said...

I agree with Sara that this assumption that New York has more smokers than other places is a bit ridiculous. I think that it would be hard to compare to other places. Is it that New York has a higher total number of smokers, or a higher percentage, because there are so many people living in New York, that when the total number of people compared to somewhere else could seem staggering, but it could only be that less than 1/4 of New Yorkers smoke. The percentage would be the most accurate, but I think that smoking could be common in New York because of the weather being cold, and it reducing stress. Living in New York must generate a lot of stress, because having to pay just housing there is supposed to be extremly expensive. A lite on a cold day probably wouldn't hurt either.

Anonymous said...

Reading Cowen's list of hypothesises for why people smoke in NYC was very interesting. I agree with the ideas about the stressful life in NYC, the cold weather, and the idea of poseurs. However with all the ones i agreed with i came back to the same image. I cannot imagine a 35 year old in present day picking up a cigarette and begining to smoke for the rest of his/her life. I bet if a survey was conducted in NYC asking the people what age they began to smoke the majority would say when they were younger than 25. In that age group i can believe that people are trying to start smoking because they think it might help relax and forget about stress, or because they want to be accepted amoung peers. I agree with what previous people have said regarding the idea that NYC has a large population so maybe the percentage of smokers is really no larget than any other area. I have one more reason why people in NYC might smoke and that is their heritage. A ton of new immigrants or second generation Americans live in NYC with unique cultures. For example, I know alot of middle eastern cultures use smoking as a social tool.
-seth weiland

Anonymous said...

It was intersting to see the possible reasons for why New Yorkers seem to smoke more than other people. Most of them were ridiculous, like #2,3 and 4. I agree that the stress of the city is so high that people are more inclined to smoke. The problem is, that't not always true, it may be a reason why a bunch of people smoke but not everyone. Also, it may seem as if more people are smoking because there are physically more people in New York than other cities. Everyone is always on the go, and looking around it may seem like there are more smokers. I also think that if someone is living admist the craziness of NYC and they see thousands of other people smoking they will think it is fine for them to do it too. This sounds crazy, but if someone in an office building is constantly surrounded by co workers who take smoke breaks all the time, they are probably more inclined to start themselves.
-Hope Johnson

Hagar the Horrible said...

Maybe another factor is that NYC may be a comparatively isolating place. People may feel more anonymous and less connected to others. Smoking tends to establish social networks -- people bond over lighting up together, bumming a smoke off one another, or asking for a light.