Diffusion, cohort change, and social patterns of smoking()

Soc Sci Res. 2005 Mar;34(1):117-139. doi: 10.1016/j.ssresearch.2003.12.003.


In noting that common explanations of smoking cannot account for both its current inverse relationship with SES and the shift over time toward greater concentration among low SES groups, this paper presents an explanation based on diffusion and status distinctions. The explanation predicts that, as cigarette diffusion proceeds and fashions change, the social determinants of smoking will shift across cohorts, such that initially positive relationships between pre-adult components of socioeconomic status and smoking in early cohorts become negative in later cohorts. Tests using historical, cohort-linked aggregate data on cigarette diffusion, and individual-level data from the General Social Surveys covering the years from 1978 to 1994 and cohorts from 1889 to 1976 largely support the predictions. In comparing older to newer cohorts, the results show correspondence between the stage of cigarette diffusion and the direction and strength of the relationships of education, parental status, urban residence, and gender with cigarette smoking.