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Health Econ. 2009 Feb;18(2):181-202. doi: 10.1002/hec.1365.

Cost-benefit analysis involving addictive goods: contingent valuation to estimate willingness-to-pay for smoking cessation.

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University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI 53706, USA.


The valuation of changes in consumption of addictive goods resulting from policy interventions presents a challenge for cost-benefit analysts. Consumer surplus losses from reduced consumption of addictive goods that are measured relative to market demand schedules overestimate the social cost of cessation interventions. This article seeks to show that consumer surplus losses measured using a non-addicted demand schedule provide a better assessment of social cost. Specifically, (1) it develops an addiction model that permits an estimate of the smoker's compensating variation for the elimination of addiction; (2) it employs a contingent valuation survey of current smokers to estimate their willingness-to-pay (WTP) for a treatment that would eliminate addiction; (3) it uses the estimate of WTP from the survey to calculate the fraction of consumer surplus that should be viewed as consumer value; and (4) it provides an estimate of this fraction. The exercise suggests that, as a tentative first and rough rule-of-thumb, only about 75% of the loss of the conventionally measured consumer surplus should be counted as social cost for policies that reduce the consumption of cigarettes. Additional research to estimate this important rule-of-thumb is desirable to address the various caveats relevant to this study.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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