The Long-Term Consequences of Vietnam-Era Conscription and Genotype on Smoking Behavior and Health
44 Pages Posted: 13 Jul 2015 Last revised: 16 May 2021
Date Written: July 2015
Research is needed to understand the extent to which environmental factors mediate links between genetic risk and the development of smoking behaviors. The Vietnam-era draft lottery offers a unique opportunity to investigate whether genetic susceptibility to smoking is influenced by risky environments in young adulthood. Access to free or reduced-price cigarettes coupled with the stress of military life meant conscripts were exposed to a large, exogenous shock to smoking behavior at a young age. Using data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), we interact a genetic risk score for smoking initiation with instrumented veteran status in an instrumental variables (IV) framework to test for genetic moderation (i.e. heterogeneous treatment effects) of veteran status on smoking behavior and smoking-related morbidities. We find evidence that veterans with a high genetic predisposition for smoking were more likely to become regular smokers, smoke heavily, and are at a higher risk of being diagnosed with cancer or hypertension at older ages. Smoking behavior was significantly attenuated for high-risk veterans who attended college after the war, indicating post-service schooling gains from veterans’ use of the GI Bill may have reduced tobacco consumption in adulthood.
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