Twin Research


The Epidemiology and Genetics of Smoking Initiation and Persistence: Crosscultural Comparisons of Twin Study Results

Pamela A. F. Maddena1 c1, Nancy L. Pedersena2, Jaakko Kaprioa3, Markku J. Koskenvuoa4 and Nicholas G. Martina5

a1 Department of Psychiatry, Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis, USA.

a2 Department of Medical Epidemiology, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.

a3 Department of Public Health, University of Helsinki and Department of Mental Health and Alcohol Research, National Institute of Public Health, Helsinki, Finland.

a4 Department of Public Health, University at Turku, Turku, Finland.

a5 Queensland Institute of Medical Research, Brisbane, Australia.


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 epidemio-logic 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 acrosscountry 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.


c1 Address for correspondence: Pamela A.F. Madden, PhD, Department of Psychiatry, Washington University School of Medicine, 40 N. Kingshighway, Suite 2, St. Louis, Missouri, 63108 USA.