The Sociopharmacology of Tobacco Addiction: Implications for Understanding Health Disparities

Nicotine Tob Res. 2016 Feb;18(2):110-21. doi: 10.1093/ntr/ntv084. Epub 2015 Apr 18.


Efforts to reduce the public health burden of tobacco use have not equally benefited all members of society, leading to disparities in tobacco use as a function of ethnicity/race, socioeconomic position, physical/behavioral comorbidity, and other factors. Although multilevel transdisciplinary models are needed to comprehensively understand sources of tobacco-related health disparities (TRHD), the incorporation of psychopharmacology into TRHD research is rare. Similarly, psychopharmacology researchers have often overlooked the societal context in which tobacco is consumed. In an effort to facilitate transdisciplinary research agendas for studying TRHD and the psychopharmacology of tobacco use, this article introduces a novel paradigm, called "sociopharmacology." Sociopharmacology is a platform for investigating how contextual factors amplify psychopharmacological determinants of smoking to disproportionately enhance vulnerability to smoking in populations subject to TRHD. The overall goal of sociopharmacology is to identify proximal person-level psychopharmacological mechanisms that channel distal societal-level influences on TRHD. In this article I describe: (1) sociopharmacology's overarching methodology and theoretical framework; (2) example models that apply sociopharmacology to understand mechanisms underlying TRHD; (3) how sociopharmacological approaches may enhance the public health impact of basic research on the psychopharmacology of tobacco use; and (4) how understanding sociopharmacological mechanisms of TRHD might ultimately translate into interventions that reduce TRHD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Behavior, Addictive / diagnosis
  • Behavior, Addictive / epidemiology
  • Behavior, Addictive / psychology
  • Comprehension*
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Psychopharmacology
  • Public Health
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Smoking / psychology
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / diagnosis
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / psychology*