The epidemiology and genetics of smoking initiation and persistence: crosscultural comparisons of twin study results

Twin Res. 2004 Feb;7(1):82-97. doi: 10.1375/13690520460741471.


We examined whether there are crosscultural differences in the magnitude of genetic and environmental contributions to risk of becoming a regular smoker and of persistence in smoking in men and women. Standard methods of epidemiologic and genetic analysis were applied to questionnaire data on history of cigarette use obtained from large samples of male and female like-sex twins from three different countries: Australia (N = 2284 pairs), Sweden (N = 8651 pairs), and Finland (N = 10,948 pairs). Samples were subdivided into three age groups (AG), 18-25 years, 26-35 years, and 36-46 years of age. The magnitude of genetic influence for lifetime smoking was found to be consistent across country and AG for women (46%) and men (57%), and estimates of the contribution from environmental influences shared by twin and co-twin could be equated across all countries by AG for the women (from youngest to oldest AG: 45%, 35%, and 26%), but not for men, with separate estimates obtained for the Scandinavian (33%, 29%, and 19%) and the Australian men (26%, 9%, and 11%). There was no evidence for an important role for shared environmental influences on persistent smoking, and the genetic contribution was found to be consistent in magnitude in men and women, and the same across country and AG (52%). There are strong genetic influences on smoking behavior, and that risk of becoming a smoker (but not persistence in smoking) may be modified by experiences shared by twins that differ by AG and, at least for men, cultural background.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Twin Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Australia
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison*
  • Female
  • Finland
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sex Distribution
  • Smoking / epidemiology*
  • Smoking / genetics*
  • Sweden