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

David R. Schaefer, Jimi Adams, Steven A. Haas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)24S-32S
JournalHealth Education and Behavior
Issue number1 SUPPL.
StatePublished - 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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