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Integrating Social Dynamics Into Modeling Cigarette and E-Cigarette Use



The use of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarette) offers potential to facilitate cigarette smoking cessation, yet potentially increases risk of cigarette smoking initiation. This relationship has been primarily modeled in mathematical ways that often do not represent real-world complexities, which could inform decisions regarding local prevention programs or policies. Aims. To develop a model of cigarette and e-cigarette use that combines current research on tobacco use and incorporates real-world geographic and demographic data. Method. We used a platform for developing agent-based models with demographic information representative of the population in Pennsylvania. We developed three models of cigarette and e-cigarette use. The primary outcome for each was the total number of users for cigarette, e-cigarette, and total nicotine. The first model applied current cigarette and e-cigarette data, the second tested the effect of implementing a program of e-cigarette education and policies, and the third considered a social contagion factor, where local schools functioned as a transmission vector. Results. The baseline and social contagion models found an overall decline in cigarette use but an increase in e-cigarette and total nicotine use. The education/policies model had declines in all categories. Sensitivity analysis suggested the importance of nuanced e-cigarette/cigarette interactions when modeling tobacco use.


Public health campaigns that focus on reducing youth e-cigarette usage can have a large effect. Social contagion should be strongly considered when studying e-cigarette spread. Conclusion. Targeted public health campaigns focused on reducing school prevalence of e-cigarette use may be particularly valuable.

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