Social Networks and Smoking: Exploring the Effects of Peer Influence and Smoker Popularity Through Simulations

  • Schaefer D
  • Adams J
  • Haas S
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Adolescent smoking and friendship networks are related in many ways that can amplify smoking prevalence. Understanding and developing interventions within such a complex system requires new analytic approaches. We draw on recent advances in dynamic network modeling to develop a technique that explores the implications of various intervention strategies targeted toward micro-level processes. Our approach begins by estimating a stochastic actor-based model using data from one school in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. The model provides estimates of several factors predicting friendship ties and smoking behavior. We then use estimated model parameters to simulate the coevolution of friendship and smoking behavior under potential intervention scenarios. Namely, we manipulate the strength of peer influence on smoking and the popularity of smokers relative to nonsmokers. We measure how these manipulations affect smoking prevalence, smoking initiation, and smoking cessation. Results indicate that both peer influence and smoking-based popularity affect smoking behavior and that their joint effects are nonlinear. This study demonstrates how a simulation-based approach can be used to explore alternative scenarios that may be achievable through intervention efforts and offers new hypotheses about the association between friendship and smoking.

Author-supplied keywords

  • adolescence
  • agent-based modeling
  • network analysis
  • smoking and tobacco use
  • systems science

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  • David R. Schaefer

  • Jimi Adams

  • Steven A. Haas

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