Adult Social Environments and the Use of Combustible and Electronic Cigarettes: Opportunities for Reducing Smoking in the 30s

Rick Kosterman, Marina Epstein, Jennifer A. Bailey, Sabrina Oesterle, Madeline Furlong, J. David Hawkins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Introduction: Reducing cigarette use is a major public health goal in the United States. Questions remain, however, about the potential for the social environment in the adult years-particularly in the 30s and beyond-to influence cigarette use. This study tested pathways hypothesized by the social development model to understand the extent to which social environmental factors at age 33 (eg, involvement with smokers or with physically active people) contribute to changes in cigarette use from age 30 to age 39. Both combustible and electronic cigarette use were investigated. Methods: Data were from the Seattle Social Development Project, a longitudinal study of 808 diverse participants with high retention. Self-reports assessed social developmental constructs, combustible and electronic cigarette use, and demographic measures across survey waves. Results: At age 30, 32% of the sample reported past-month cigarette use. Using structural equation modeling, results showed high stability in cigarette use from age 30 to 39. After accounting for this stability, cigarette-using social environments at age 33 predicted personal beliefs or norms about smoking (eg, acceptability and social costs), which in turn predicted combustible cigarette use at age 39. Cigarette-using environments, however, directly predicted electronic cigarette use at age 39, with no significant role for beliefs about smoking. Conclusions: Cigarette use was highly stable across the 30s, but social environmental factors provided significant partial mediation of this stability. Pathways were different for combustible and electronic cigarette use, however, with personal smoking norms playing an important role for the former but not the latter. Implications: This study addresses the need for longitudinal investigation of social mechanisms and cigarette use in the 30s. Findings reinforce efforts to prevent the uptake of cigarettes prior to the 30s because, once started, smoking is highly stable. But social environmental factors remain viable intervention targets in the 30s to disrupt this stability. Addressing personal norms about smoking's acceptability and social costs is likely a promising approach for combustible cigarette use. Electronic cigarettes, however, present a new challenge in that many perceived social costs of cigarette use do not readily translate to this relatively recent technology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)518-526
Number of pages9
JournalNicotine and Tobacco Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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