The Diffusion of Smoking in East and West Germany: Smoking Patterns by Birth Year

Short Papers
By Christina Westphal, Gabriele Doblhammer

Smoking is among the most important risk factors for population health and premature mortality. Smoking trends for Germany indicate that smoking has been spreading according to the assumptions of diffusion theory. This paper presents empirical evidence for smoking diffusion in Germany. We focus on educational differences as well as on differences between East and West Germany in the propensity to start (ever smoker) and quit smoking (former smoker). We use a birth year perspective to depict the historical development of smoking behaviour. Our analyses are based on data from four waves of the German Microcensus (1995, 1999, 2003 and 2005) in which respondents are asked about their smoking habits. We focus on cohorts born in 1970 and before. We present age-specific ever and former smoking rates by education for men and women in East and West Germany and apply interaction models to analyse whether these differences are significant. Our results confirm the assumptions of diffusion theory for Germany in that men are ahead of women in the process of diffusion, and smoking patterns differ between educational groups. Moreover we find different smoking patterns for women in East and West Germany.


  • East and West Germany
  • cigarette
  • smoking
  • diffusion theory
  • educational level
  • cohort
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