Does Communism Cause Cancer?

Provocative subject, so let me clarify. How are smoking habits today associated with who we sided with in World War Two? Further, how are our smoking habits associated with the GDP of our respective countries?

Walking around San Francisco, you can’t go a block downtown without getting smoke blown into your face, and cigarettes are expensive. They’re addicting, sure, but what kind of income do you need to be making in order for this addiction to no longer be economically possible. At what point, economically, are citizens forced to give up tobacco in order to simply survive? Another way of asking this is what does the demand curve for tobacco look like?

An article on shows consumption of tobacco geographically, changes in consumption by region, and pie charts to depict consumption by country.

The countries that consume the least tobacco annually are:

·      Guinea
·      Solomon Islands
·      Kiribati
·      Uganda
·      Rwanda
·      Samoa
·      Democratic Republic of Congo
·      Ethiopia
·      Vanuatu
·      Guyana

The countries that consume the most tobacco per capita are:

·      Bosnia and Herzegovina
·      China
·      Luxemborg
·      Belgium
·      Slovenia
·      Russia
·      Macedonia
·      Lebanon
·      Belarus
·      Montenegro

For a little relativity, the average Montenegrin smokes 4,124.5 cigarettes per year, or 11.3 a day (or 15.5 a day if you only count trading days).

In the names above, do you see any particular pattern? Think economic, political, cultural similarities.

Granted, most of the low consumption countries were merely occupied by the Allies as they island hopped their way to Japan. Also, if you sum the GDP per capita of the bottom 20 countries, you get just barely over the GDP per capita of the USA.

If I expand my list to the top 20 tobacco consuming countries, just three were on the Allies side of WWII. That’s 85% of the top 20 tobacco consuming countries that fought for the Axis powers. Analyzing the bottom 20 tobacco consuming countries, 18 of the 20 were on the side of the Allied powers. That’s 90% of the bottom 20 countries that fought for the Allies! The cluster at the top right in the graph are the top 20 consuming countries, the cluster at the bottom left are the bottom 20 tobacco consuming countries.


Now the line of thinking goes, “how much does wealth impact my desire to smoke cigarettes? Tom just said, all the lowest tobacco consuming countries are tiny compared to the largest tobacco consuming economies; shouldn’t it be that the lower you income, the less likely it is you’ll smoke?”

I did an analysis across 181 countries across the globe using data from in order to see if GDP per Capita has explanatory power in determining annual consumption of cigarettes within each country. Side note: to control for the mean, I took the natural log of all data.

Testable Equation: (i represents each respective country)

Cigarettes Per Dayi = α + β(GDP Per Capitai)

If there is a direct, positive correlation between GDP per capita and Cigarettes smoked, we’ll see a beta value of one and an alpha value of zero. Running the regression across 181 countries returns the following:

Alpha Interpret Beta Interpret
3.997 Large alpha; greater than zero .7335 Positive beta; less than one

gdp to cigs.jpgGraphically:

The beta value less than one, but still positive implies that there is a strong correlation between GDP per capita and amount of cigarettes smoked. Intuitively, the more money you have, the more cigarettes you can buy. This means consumers see cigarettes as a “normal good” for all you econ buffs. Normal goods are usually things like Coke as opposed to generic brand. Meanwhile, we are continually fed ads depicting people whose lives have been ruined by cigarette smoke.

The large alpha value means that nicotine is still addictive; it means people will still smoke 54 (e^4) cigarettes a year even if their country’s GDP per capita is zero. Kinda funny, kinda not.

In conclusion, does communism cause cancer? Cigarettes cause cancer. Seventeen of the top 20 tobacco consuming countries were part of the Axis powers in WW2. I’ll let you decide for yourself.

– Tommander-in-Chief

p.s. Email me if you want the whole data set:

External Articles:


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