John Lang, PhD Candidate
Department of Applied Mathematics, University of Waterloo
The influence of societal individualism on a century of tobacco use: modelling the prevalence of smoking
Smoking of tobacco is estimated to have caused approximately six million deaths worldwide in 2014. Responding effectively to this epidemic requires a thorough understanding of how smoking behaviour is transmitted and modified. We present a new mathematical model of the social dynamics that cause cigarette smoking to spread in a population, incorporating aspects of individual and social utility. The general model prediction that more individualistic societies will show faster adoption and cessation of smoking is supported two independent data sets spanning 25 countries: a newly compiled century-long composite data set on smoking prevalence, and Hofstede's individualism/collectivism measure (IDV). Our model in conjunction with extensive data on smoking prevalence provides evidence for the hypothesis that individualism/collectivism may have an important influence on the dynamics of smoking prevalence at the aggregate, population level. Significant implications for public health interventions are discussed.