Does Military Service Shorten Lives? The Effect of Compulsory Military Service on Smoking Prevalence

Dean R. Lillard, Ohio State University
Jacob Fahringer, Ohio State University

It has long been averred that men who serve in the military are more likely to smoke. Researchers observe that the military has long promoted the consumption of tobacco through tax free sales to troops, the issuance of cigarettes and tobacco in rations (until 1975), and subsidies that continue until the present day. Despite these seemingly obvious influences, one cannot conclude that military service causes men to smoke until and unless one controls for the type of man who serves in the military. Here, we use variation in the length of required military service for men in cohorts when military service was compulsory. We also instrument for the probability a man serves. We find a causal effect of military service on smoking probabilities. Projecting out the conditional probability of quitting, we compute the expected loss of life caused by compulsory military service. Results from other countries corroborate our findings.

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Presented in Session 46: Health Behaviors, Health, and Mortality