Original Research

The effect of cigarette smoking on subjective well-being in South Africa and its implications for tobacco control

Gorton Wilmans, Naiefa Rashied
Journal of Economic and Financial Sciences | Vol 13, No 1 | a451 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/jef.v13i1.451 | © 2020 Gorton Wilmans, Naiefa Rashied | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 27 January 2019 | Published: 01 April 2020

About the author(s)

Gorton Wilmans, School of Economics, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa
Naiefa Rashied, School of Economics, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa


Orientation: The effect of cigarette smoking on health and economic well-being has been widely studied. Its effect on subjective well-being measures, such as life satisfaction, has received less scholarly attention.

Research purpose: This study tested the effect of cigarette smoking on life satisfaction amongst smokers in South Africa as a precursor to assessing the effectiveness of traditional tobacco control methods.

Motivation for the study: Taxation has long been the primary tool for tobacco control in South Africa; however, the psychological effects of cigarette smoking are not considered when selecting tobacco control tools.

Research approach/design and method: The study applied an ordered probit regression to a panel of five waves of the National Income Dynamics Study (NIDS) data to test the relationship between cigarette smoking and life satisfaction in South Africa.

Main findings: Smoking was found to negatively affect an individual’s likelihood of reporting higher satisfaction with life relative to non-smokers, a finding that is in line with the limited literature on the subject and with the findings of similar studies that used objective measures of well-being. Furthermore, the current tobacco control framework is not as effective as expected as smoking prevalence is fairly constant, notably amongst the poor, despite large increases in excise duties on cigarettes over time.

Practical/managerial implications: The study’s main finding promotes the case for reassessing the approach taken to formulating tobacco control policies and for implementing alternative tobacco control policies that consider the psychological effects of cigarette smoking. As smoking cessation is shown to increase the likelihood of reporting higher life satisfaction, measures aimed at cessation (such as broad-scale smoking bans) could prove more successful than taxation.

Contribution/value-add: This study contributes to the limited literature regarding the relationship between subjective well-being and cigarette smoking in the developing world. The study provides insight to whether standard tobacco control policies should be applied generically without accounting for the relationship between cigarette smoking and subjective well-being.


School of Economics, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg


Total abstract views: 2896
Total article views: 4571


Crossref Citations

1. Substance use and labour market nexus in South Africa
Lateef Olalekan Bello, Lloyd J.S. Baiyegunhi, Gideon Danso-Abbeam
Scientific African  vol: 23  first page: e02093  year: 2024  
doi: 10.1016/j.sciaf.2024.e02093